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Trial told of Norfolk telecom 'scam'

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 January 2010 | UPDATED: 07:38 02 July 2010

Hayley Mace

The boss of a Norfolk firm with a multi-million pound turnover has appeared in court after being accused of defrauding businesses, schools and individuals out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The boss of a Norfolk firm with a multi-million pound turnover has appeared in court after being accused of defrauding businesses, schools and individuals out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Christopher Boughton-Fox, of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, set up a “culture of deception” in his company to encourage customers to sign up to lengthy and expensive leases for telecommunications services and equipment, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

It is alleged that Boughton-Fox, 46, and other employees of Business Telecom Ltd told “a pattern of lies” to get potential customers from across East Anglia, including schools, to sign contracts based on fraudulent claims in order to make money for the company and for themselves, taking the firm's turnover to £4.5m in 2007.

Also on trial are Business Telecom Ltd employees Jonathan Parrish, 40, of The Hills in Reedham and Daniel Cullen, 27, of Hatfield in Hertfordshire. All three men deny conspiring to defraud businesses and individuals to a value in excess of £100,000 between March 1 2003 and June 1 2008.

David Wilson, prosecuting, told the jury at the opening of the trial yesterday that staff from the company's call centre in King Street, Great Yarmouth, made false links to British Telecom (BT) to make appointments with potential customers by claiming to be from the “business side” of BT.

Salespeople then made false claims to get people to sign up to leases for phone lines and accessories.

He said: “Lies were told and false representations were made. They were the same identical lies told by a number of staff and that is evidence that there was an agreement or a conspiracy to defraud.”

Mr Wilson said that salespeople made a number of untrue claims about their 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.

“The company offered deals that in many ways were too good to be true… The reason we believe these claims were made was the sound of the till opening and the money to be made,” he said.

After a string of complaints, Norfolk Trading Standards launched an investigation in 2007 into Business Telecom Ltd, which has its headquarters in Southtown Road in Yarmouth. They found that almost identical complaints were being made from across East Anglia, which eventually led to the defendants being charged and brought to court.

Mr Wilson said that Boughton-Fox was aware of the false representations being made by his staff “and took little or no action to do anything about them.”

He added: “Of course everything financial was set up for him to benefit from these practices…He seemed to be aware of nearly every sale that was made, and he was aware of the increasing number of complaints against staff.”

The trial was continuing today and is expected to last for up to six weeks.

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