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Court told of telecoms firm's lies

PUBLISHED: 10:23 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:35 30 June 2010

A firm of silver-tongued salesmen conned schools, charities and small businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a high pressure telecoms scam, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

A firm of silver-tongued salesmen conned schools, charities and small businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in a high pressure telecoms scam, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

Christopher Boughton-Fox built Business Telecom up from a one-man band based at his home in Norwich into a successful company which at its peak turned over £4.5m in one year from its offices in King Street, Great Yarmouth.

But prosecutors allege that sales reps systematically lied to customers as they tied them into long-running contracts to secure lucrative commissions. Boughton-Fox paid himself a salary of £600,000 while co-accused Jonathan Parish often earned more than £400,000 per year.

It is alleged that, after cold-calling potential customers, members of staff fraudulently claimed they were representing British Telecom (BT). Customers were told they could cancel deals after one year but found themselves committed to unwanted and expensive systems for seven years, the court heard.

Speaking on the first day of the trial, prosecutor David Wilson told jurors: “They were prepared to tell lie after lie after lie so that they could secure hefty commissions and they could live very comfortable lifestyles.

“Huge financial rewards fell to Boughton-Fox and that bred a culture of deception which spread throughout the company.”

Among the victims were primary schools across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. They also targeted the Meadowgreen Dog Rescue Centre in Loddon and a number of start-up companies.

Boughton-Fox, 46, of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, and Parish, 40, of The Hills in Reedham, both deny conspiracy to defraud businesses and individuals to a value in excess of £100,000 over a period dating between 2003 and 2008.

Mr Wilson said customers were sold equipment they did not need and were pressurised into signing up for digital services on the pretence this was a government requirement. They were also falsely told they would be able to claim rebates which would cover the entire cost of the contracts.

He added: “It may sound too good to be true but this is what they were told by these silver-tongued sales staff - it was a confidence trick designed to open up thousands of pounds in commission.”

One victim was St Botolph's Church of England School in Diss. A member of staff from the school said that when they tried to complain about the contract they had been sold, the firm “tried to confuse us with technical jargon”.

The alleged fraud came to light when the finance firm behind the deal received a large number of complaints from disgruntled customers.

Some customers - including the Royston Hotel in Great Yarmouth which saw its phone bill leap from £180 a quarter to £320 after dealing with Business Telecom - complained directly to Boughton-Fox but their concerns were dismissed.

The prosecution claims that the dishonest practices were so ingrained in all members of staff that Boughton-Fox must have been complicit in them.

The case continues and could last up to six weeks.


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