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Fraudsters admit their part in £850,000 timeshare scam

PUBLISHED: 17:24 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:47 11 October 2017

Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Archant

Two men have admitted their part in a fraud which took around £850,000 from hundreds of unsuspecting timeshare owners.

Alan Sharp, 65, and James Barrass, 37, were said to have been involved in money laundering offences during the two-year scam.

Five other people have admitted being part of a conspiracy to commit fraud and two others have admitted offences of fraudulent trading.

Sharp, of Constitutional Hill, Norwich was due to face trial at Stafford Crown Court this week accused of being concerned in an arrangement, which he knew was fraudulent, to facilitate the acquisition or control of, criminal monies for, and on behalf of, Brian Carr.

However, before the trial started Sharp changed his plea and admitted the charge.

Barrass, of Manby Road, Norwich, had pleaded guilty to the same charge at an earlier hearing.

The scam - making bogus claims that there were buyers for people’s timeshare facilities in Spain and other areas of the Mediterranean - was started by Brian Carr in Norwich more than five years ago.

It later moved to Bromsgrove and Redditch in Worcestershire, where Carr and most of the defendants were based.

In 2012 Carr using the name ‘Stephen Blake’ and operated the fraud a business named Simple Property Marketing Solutions based at Cavell House in Norwich.

He later recruited several ‘managers’ - including his younger brother Daniel Carr - to carry out the cold calls to timeshare owners.

Initially Brian Carr had approached Barrass to provide the card payment machine facilities through his business, Bullwell Services in Norwich, to take payments for the ‘fees’ paid by the unsuspecting victims.

When Barrass’ business lost the chip and pin card facility Carr brought in Sharp to provide the same service through his business, Pro-Bio Markets Ltd, also in Norwich.

At court yesterday (Tuesday, October 10) Andrew Wheeler QC, prosecuting, said that timeshare owners were approached between 2012 and 2015 and offered a chance to sell and that buyers could be found and the owners were required to pay ‘notary fees’ up front to complete the sale.

“People paid between £600 and £1,500 hoping that their timeshare would be sold, but it was all dishonest and just a serious lies,” he said.

The court heard that £80,000 passed through Sharp’s account and onto the leaders of the conspiracy from which he made around £10,000 profit.

Mr Wheeler said West Mercia police fraud investigators had identified around 470 people who were deceived - who were mainly elderly and vulnerable - and that at least £850,000 was taken by the fraudsters.

Peter Cooper, for Sharp, said that while his client had been suspicious, rather than having direct knowledge he had been unaware of the full extent of the fraud.

However, Mr Wheeler said the prosecution did not accept Sharp’s basis of plea and it may be subject to a trial of issue before sentence.

Judge Jonathan Gosling adjourned Sharp’s case for social inquiry reports.

At previous hearings Brian Carr, 29, Daniel Carr, 24, Craig Walker, 27, Steven Cross, 37, all from Worcestershire, and Dawn Gingell, 55, from Hampshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.

At court this week Matthew Barker, 24, of Bromsgrove, and Brendon Hicks, 27, of Redditch, were also due to face trial but had admitted charges of fraudulent trading.

Sentencing of all nine defendants, along with any trials of issue over the defendant’s basis of plea, will take place over three days at Stafford Crown Court later in the year.

All the defendants are on conditional bail.

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