Norfolk woman alleged to have duped elderly and infirm customers, court told
PUBLISHED: 17:05 09 June 2014 | UPDATED: 08:42 10 June 2014
A woman is alleged to have duped elderly and infirm customers into buying “therapy units” paying up to £700 for what Norfolk Trading Standards claim are cheap massage mattresses which can be bought on eBay for £30, a jury is told.
A Norfolk woman duped elderly and infirm customers into buying “therapy units” paying up to £700 for what in fact were cheap massage mattresses, a court heard.
Georgina Dean, also known as Elizabeth, is said to have deceived elderly customers by promising the mats were medically approved and could treat a number of conditions including Parkinson’s.
Dean, 29, of Barnham Broom Road, Wymondham, operated under two different trading names Norfolk Eco and the Green Leaf Group selling the items to customers around Norfolk.
Norwich Crown Court heard the mats could be bought for about £30 on eBay but she was selling them at prices ranging from £220 to £700. As well as her address in Wymondham, Dean also operated from an address in Lower Gresham, in business cards she gave customers.
Jamie Sawyer, prosecuting on behalf of Norfolk Trading Standards, said: “In reality she was a one-man band, acting as a sole trader, although she variously gave the impression to customers she was part of a larger organisation.”
He added: “She contrary to what she told many of her customers, had no medical training and was in effect a latter day ‘snake oil’ salesman.”
He said she got a list of potential customers on the Internet targeting people aged 70 or over.
Mr Sawyer said she would arrange a home visit and would prey on their medical complaints varying from diabetes to arthritis.
“She would represent the mat would assist with these conditions, going so far on one occasion as to state that the mat would stop Parkinson’s disease.”
She also demonstrated a larger, more expensive model and would eventually provide a smaller, cheaper version.
He said she would induce the elderly customer into signing a contract, on the assurance it could be cancelled in seven days, but often used to deliver the mat outside the seven day period. He said in other cases she failed to deliver a mat at all.
He said Dean was hard to get hold of when customers complained.
Mr Sawyer said trading standards launched an investigation into Dean and she was interviewed in December 2011 and again in March, 2012.
In interviews, Dean denied making any medical representations and accepted the units would have no use for anyone suffering from cancer.
“During the course of both interviews Dean was evasive where and from whom she had purchased the massage pads. Trading standards liaised with eBay, where Dean held an account. It was discovered she had purchased massage pads, from China, at a much reduced price.
He said that she had told trading standards that she was entitled to “charge what she liked”
Dean has denied two counts of fraudulent trading.
One witness, an 84 year-old woman from Sprowston, near Norwich, who suffers from arthritis, told how she had been visited by Dean at her home, and said Dean “looked the part”.
She tried out the mat for about 20 minutes and found it helped her arthritis pain.
She said Dean said the unit cost £750.
“I said I could not afford anything like that. She suggested there would be a discount.”
She also told the pensioner that there was a smaller version she could have for £300, and so she agreed to buy one.
She said Dean mentioned being from an arthritis group but after handing over a cheque, the mat never arrived.
The woman said she contacted trading standards when she found her cheque had been cashed but she had not received any goods.
When she tried to phone Dean, she also found the numbers were unavailable.
“I thought she was selling me the goods that I had seen.”
Another woman told how she had seen a demonstration of the mat at her mother’s home, in Mundesley, and decided to go ahead and buy one for £700 as she hoped it would help her with pain relief.
She told the court: “I thought it seemed rather expensive but when you are in pain you will try anything.”
She was promised she could get her money back if she changed her mind, but when she contacted Dean about getting a refund, she claimed her phone call was cut off.
When her husband eventually managed to get hold of Dean, she told him the company had gone out of business.
“She said she had folded the company and she was not liable or obliged to give us any money back.”
The trial continues.