A Somerset based advertising salesman who made a string of false or misleading claims in order to obtain orders from dozens of small businesses, has been successfully prosecuted for fraud by Borough of Poole's Trading Standards.
Nigel Hallett of Frome, Somerset, pleaded guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court yesterday to 2 counts of operating a fraudulent business under the Fraud Act 2006. The offences related to payments made for advertisements in a number of business directories and promotional maps sold to businesses across Poole, Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Wimborne in 2013 and 2014.
Hallett, aged 47, had targeted smaller, independent businesses where he would cold call on the owned and sell space in his Little Black Book, or Buzz Maps publications. Hallett made a series of fraudulent claims in order to convince his victims that he was a legitimate publisher worth advertising through.
- falsely stating that his directory and maps would be made available through wel known shops such as Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer when he had no such arrangement in place
- claiming that he had arrangements to distribute the booklets through large, local businesses and organisations like Bournemouth University, Rockley Park holiday park, JP Morgan or Liverpool Victoria when in fact none were
- telling prospective clients that the pulication would be made available at railway stations, including London Waterloo, and well know hotels such as Hotel Du Vin
- claiming that he was working with the approval of the local tourist offices or with the approval of the Borough of Poole, and even reproducing the boroughs logo on his paperwork
None of the different publications Hallett had sold advertising in over the period were ever produced and none of the witnesses involve ever received a refund of any money paid, which in some cases was as high as £600. Phone calls and emails to Hallett from his victims went unanswered as he moved onto other areas, selling advertisements in his next publication.
James Norman, Regulatory Team Manager, Borough of Poole, explained :"This is a clear case of a bogus businessman willing to exploit the trust of small businesses for his own profit. Hallett presented himself to his victims as a small, family run business himself in order to generate empathy. He was a very convincing salesman but it was all aimed at generating a false impression of legitimacy.
Councillor John Rampton, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Environmental and Consumer Protection Services, Borough of Poole, said: "This case serves as a warning to fraudulent businesses that Trading Standards will take action to protect legitimate businesses and will use every means possible to bring fraudsters tpo justice. Hallett targeted small businesses in the area and defrauded them of money they could not afford to lose. This was a lengthy, complex, and difficult case involving multiple witnesses and we believe this was the largest investigation of this type in the South West. Those responsible for bringing the case to court should be applauded for their tenacity and determination in pursuing a fraudster who refused to accept any responsibility for his actions until now".