October 23rd, 2016

Fraudster businessman told to pay up or stay in jail

Fraudster businessman told to pay up or stay in jail Fraudster businessman told to pay up or stay in jail
Updated: 9:04 am, Feb 16, 2016

JUST days before he is due to leave prison the boss of what a judge described as a ‘fraud factory’ has been ordered to pay £350,000 – or face another two-and-a-half years in jail.

Crooked Andrew Harris had intended to defraud people out of millions of pounds by fraudulently selling ‘fractional ownership’ of three yachts and maintenance fees.

He and David Evans, his fellow director in Shakespeare Classic Line based at the Nunhold Business Centre in Hatton, had denied a charge of fraudulent trading.

But 56 year-old Harris, of Henley Road, Alcester; Evans, of Longdon Road, Shrewsbury; and the company were all convicted after a nine-week trial at Warwick Crown Court in 2013.

Harris, who was also convicted of ten offences of using unfair commercial practices, was jailed for four-and-a-half years in November 2013, while Evans, who was then 68, was given a suspended 21-month sentence.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing against Harris and sentencing of Shakespeare Classic Line were adjourned for what ended up as long-running investigations into their respective finances.

And after more than two years, prosecutor Tony Watkin said there had finally been an agreement on the figures in what had originally been expected to be a contested hearing.

As a result Judge Alan Parker ruled Harris and Shakespeare Classic Line had each benefitted from the crooked activity to the tune of £550,000 – making a total of £1.1million.

Mr Watkin said Harris had available assets, including cash in a bank account and property, worth £350,000.

So Judge Parker ordered that amount to be confiscated from him under the Proceeds of Crime Act, out of which £21,731 is to be used to pay compensation to victims of the scam who gave evidence in the trial.

He gave Harris until May 8 to come up with the money or face a further two-and-a-half years in prison – after which he would still owe the £350,000.

Shakespeare Classic Line, which Mr Watkin said was now a ‘zombie company,’ with no directors, was given conditional discharges for each of the offences of which it was convicted.

Judge Parker ordered £225,988 to be confiscated from SCL, again with £21,731 being used for compensation, after being told that was the value of its assets consisting of cruisers and narrow boats and a yacht moored in Turkey.

The judge said he had wished to fine SCL and to order it and Harris to pay the costs, running into tens of thousands of pounds, incurred by Warwickshire County Council’s trading standards department, who he said had ‘conducted themselves in an exemplary way in seeking to protect local consumers.’

He was not able to do so because the law says priority has to be given to compensation and confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

But Mr Watkin pointed out all was not lost – because although 53 per cent of the confiscated amount goes to the Government, the remainder will be split between agencies including the court service and the prosecuting authority.

When he had jailed Harris, Judge Parker had said Harris ran what can only be described as a fraud factory where customers were processed in industrial numbers.

He said Harris was a “dishonest, selfish and greedy man.”

During the trial Mr Watkin said the fraud had involved the sale of ‘fractional ownership’ in three £250,000 yachts moored at Marmaris in Turkey.

Potential customers were enticed to attend sales presentations at Shakespeare Classic Line’s premises in Hatton through cold calls and the offer of free holidays and the like.

But once there, they were subjected to ‘a carefully-honed high-pressure sales pitch’ for up to five hours in a bid to get them to sign up.

Customers ended up agreeing to pay £10,000 or more for one-week ‘fractional ownership’ of a berth on one of the yachts – plus other add on costs.

The intended value of the fraud was estimated at just short of £7.5million.