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Norfolk businessmen "made millions through their lies"

PUBLISHED: 18:14 06 April 2011

Christopher Boughton-Fox

Christopher Boughton-Fox

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

The boss of a firm with a multi million pound turnover has been found guilty of conning businesses and schools in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards carried out a intensive and extensive investigation to catch out the businessman involved in the Business Telecom fraud.

During the trial, 51 victims, including small schools and charities, gave evidence. The typical cost of a lease agreement that businesses were led to sign-up to saw them paying on average £21,000 over a 7 year period.

The impact of the sales techniques saw Business Telecom grow from an organisation with a turnover of £350,000 in 1999 to £4.5 million in 2007.

Following the verdict, David Collinson, head of Public Protection, Norfolk County Council, said: “I am extremely pleased with today’s verdict. The two defendants found guilty in this trial, coupled with two other defendants, Neil Debenham and Daniel Cullen who were salesmen for Business Telecom, who pleaded guilty at an earlier stage, will now be held accountable for the widescale defrauding that they were carrying out in the name of Business Telecom Ltd.

“These individuals knowingly conspired together over a number of years to defraud small businesses, voluntary organisations and schools in Norfolk and across the region - telling a number of lies in order to lead them to enter into expensive and lengthy lease agreements for telecommunications systems and accessories.

“Customers were cold called by the company and visited by sales staff, with dishonest themes involved in the sales pitch ranging from the cost of a lease agreement with them, the length of the lease agreement and cancellation charges, through to the company’s false associations with BT (British Telecom), and lies about the need to upgrade phone systems due to lines and systems becoming digital and the need to protect from power surges.

“These lies were extremely profitable for the business and for these individuals, with the total value of the leases sold via fraudulent misrepresentations exceeding well over £1 million and the individuals themselves each earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

“Small to medium-sized businesses and organisations were the prey of these individuals and after being misled about what they were entering into they were left tied into expensive and lengthy lease agreements - leaving some with real financial difficulties.

“Norfolk County Council Trading Standards carried out an extensive investigation into the complaints from businesses about Business Telecom’s sales techniques.

“Such fraudulent business practices placed Business Telecom at an unfair commercial advantage over other local, honest businesses - which Norfolk County Council Trading Standards will always look to protect.”

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