Three people have today been sentenced for their roles in a Lancashire business loan scam.
Martin Williams, 32, of Broadgate, Preston; Imran Ahmed, 42, of Burrow Road, Preston and Debbie Devany, 30, of Bolton Road West, Bury were responsible for defrauding businesses in excess of £160,000.
They promised loans to companies if they were able to put down advance payment fees or deposits between 2010 and 2012.
Today, Williams and Ahmed were jailed for three years and Devany was handed a two year suspended sentence. at Preston Crown Court.
The trio set up fake companies based in Preston under the names Lomond Finance Ltd, Revenue and Finance Ltd, Commercial and Corporate Ltd, Alliance Equity Ltd and Calston Commercial Ltd. They also used fake personal aliases.
They sent out fliers to companies across the UK promising loans with very low interest rates.
They used legitimate sounding addresses such as offices on Bond Street and Regent Street based in London, but these were virtual offices used to divert mail to addresses in Preston.
The victims were promised large unsecured loans on the condition that an advance deposit and an administration fee were paid up front.
The criminals used aliases and fictitious departments, requesting more money from the victims by claiming that the original amount paid was insufficient due to an admin error. When the victims requested refunds, the offenders simply shut down the company website, changed telephone numbers and moved addresses.
Victims paid vast deposit sums, with one company handing over £30,000 as a deposit and arrangement fees for a loan of £210,000. In another case, a business was scammed out of £23,000 also used as a deposit.
The money eventually ended up in the fraudsters’ multiple personal bank accounts before being withdrawn in cash.
Det Con Azam Khan from Preston CID said: “This was a deliberate, dishonest and sophisticated set up with these fraudsters ultimately taking advantage of the recession when businesses were struggling.
“They have shown no remorse for their actions which has seen honest, decent, hardworking people and their businesses lose thousands of pounds.
“This was a long and complex investigation and today’s result is the culmination of lots of work that went in to ensuring they were brought to justice.
“I only hope that the victims can start to move forward with their lives.”
An investigation into the trio began in 2010 initially by other forces across the country. When Lancashire officers raided offices in December 2011 on Garstang Road, Preston they found thousands of fliers ready to be posted to unsuspecting businesses.
They were eventually charged in September 2013.