Thorpe St Andrew businessman denies running major fraud operation

Businesses, schools and charities in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex were conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a high pressure telecoms scam by a company run by a Norwich businessman, it has been alleged.

Smooth-talking sales reps from Great Yarmouth-based Business Telecom Ltd allegedly lied to customers as they tied them into long-running contracts to secure lucrative commissions, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

The business was so successful that at one stage it had a turnover of �4.5m and while company boss Christopher Boughton-Fox, of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, had a salary of �600,000, sales manager Jonathan Parish could earn up to �40,000 in 'a good month', the court heard.

David Wilson, prosecuting, alleged that during cold calls to potential customers staff allegedly claimed they represented British Telecom and that Business Telecom was the 'business side' of British Telecom. 'We say that was a device operated to open doors to get a degree of trust from a long established business,' said Mr Wilson. Customers were allegedly told they could cancel deals after one year but found themselves committed to unwanted and expensive terms for seven years.

Boughton-Fox, 48, and Parish, 42, of The Hills, Reedham, have denied conspiring to defraud businesses and individuals of more than �100,000 between 2003 and 2008.

The court heard that among the alleged victims in Suffolk were Pot Kiln Primary School, Great Cornard, Rattlesden Primary School, Combs Ford Primary School , Elmers Hardware, Kesgrave and BMS Imaging, Ipswich while in Norfolk the Meadowgreen Dog Rescue Centre in Loddon was allegedly targeted and in Essex, Phoenix Taxis in Clacton was an alleged victim.

The court heard Boughton-Fox built Business Telecom Ltd up from a one man band at his home in Norwich into a successful company operating from offices in King Street, Great Yarmouth, with a staff of around 36 at its peak.

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Mr Wilson alleged that staff made a number of untrue claims about the company's leases and products including saying that customers needed new phones to work on a digital system, that their costs would be covered by rebates from Business Telecom Ltd and that new leases would replace existing ones, when in fact they were running at the same time so people were paying twice for the same service.

He claimed that the total value of leases sold by fraudulent misrepresentation was more than �1m.

The trial, which is expected to last up to 10 weeks, continues today.