Yarmouth fraudsters targeted pub

PUBLISHED: 17:14 08 April 2011 | UPDATED: 17:17 08 April 2011

The Goat Inn,  Long Road, Skeyton
Pictures from the Eatting out feature
For:EDP Eatting Out
Copy:Trevor Heaton

The Goat Inn, Long Road, Skeyton Pictures from the Eatting out feature For:EDP Eatting Out Copy:Trevor Heaton

A family-run pub was among the small businesses targeted by Great Yarmouth fraudsters who conned them out of thousands of pounds in a five year scam.

Yarmouth-based Business Telecom Ltd conned small businesses, schools and charities in Norfolk out of thousands of pounds.

The company’s smooth-talking sales reps lied to customers as they tied them into long running contracts to secure lucrative commissions.

Jo Cooke, landlady at the Goat Inn in Skeyton, near North Walsham, said the scam had cost them more than £50,000.

She explained: “My mum, Judy Cooper, answered the first cold call from Business Telecom. They lied that they were the business arm of British Telecom and said it would not cost us a penny, etc.

“At the time we were told we could get out of the contract after one year and we would get yearly refunds. Mum signed the contract without putting her glasses on.

“But I got everything they agreed down in black and white, but when I cancelled the contract after one year, it did not mean anything. We have spent £16,000 in legal costs and the initial agreement was £35,000, which we have to pay.”

She said she was ecstatic when she found out that Business Telecom’s chairman, Christopher Boughton-Fox, 48, formerly of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, was found guilty of conspiring to defraud businesses and individuals of more than £100,000 between 2003 and 2008. Jonathan Parish, 42, of The Hills, Reedham, was found guilty of the same charge.

Mrs Cooke had been conned by the firm’s salesman, Neil Debenham, 28, of East Somerton, near Caister, who admitted the same charge at an earlier hearing.

Meanwhile, Christine Ames , who runs Ames Air Conditioning, a small family-run business in Rackheath, said she was delighted to learn Boughton-Fox had been found guilty.

She said they were cold called by Business Telecom and led to believe it was the business arm of British Telecom. When they tried to end the agreements because the equipment did not appear, they were told they could not be cancelled. This led to years of legal wrangles involving £10,000 being spent on legal fees.

She added: “The stress and the con-stant worry that I had been conned was sometimes overwhelming and has placed my company under severe financial strain over the last five years.”

Boughton-Fox and Parish will be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on April 27 along with Debenham.

A fourth employee, Daniel Cullen, 28, of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, previously admitted conspiracy to defraud and will be sentenced later.

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