Fraudsters con builders' merchants
Builders’ merchants have been fleeced of more than £300,000 by fraudsters ordering through bogus companies.
The network of phantom companies has now been ordered into liquidation by the High Court following an investigation by the Insolvency Service. But the fraudsters themselves appeaqr to have got away with it so far.
The court heard that all bar one of the companies were incorporated by the same formation agent, a Jade Evans (who has not been located), and her company, ABN Company Formations Ltd (now dissolved). The court also heard that more than 50 other companies had been formed by Jade Evans and used as part of an extensive network of companies engaged in systematic fraud.
The companies had reported combined assets of over £13m, including more than £1.6m in cash.
The investigation showed how the six companies before the court had common features such as inexplicable and dramatic increases in their share capital, fictitious officers, identity theft, the filing of false accounts reporting significant assets and trading, providing each another with favourable trade references, ordering goods whatever the price quoted by the supplier, creating websites with content usually taken from other genuine sites, all to give the impression of a bona fide business. The companies nevertheless had no presence at their registered offices.
The companies targeted building trade suppliers, depriving them of more than £300,000 of goods including cable and other electrical goods, steel and reinforcing rods, ceramic tiles, paint, flooring, artificial grass and computer and office supplies.
The goods fraudulently obtained were delivered to common addresses, one in Milton Keynes and two in Essex.
Welcoming the court’s winding up decisions, Insolvency Service company investigations supervisor Chris Mayhew said: “The accounts and information presented by these companies reporting them as substantial and credit-worthy businesses trading profitably for a number of years was as false as the artificial grass supplied to one of them.
“Each company was part of an organised operation and the goods delivered to them without payment were swiftly collected and put beyond reach for the benefit of those behind the companies and those who ultimately utilised the goods stolen.
“Typically this type of fraud can inflict losses on legitimate business of hundreds of thousands of pounds and in this instance nearly caused a small supplier to go out of business himself because of the loss inflicted.”
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This article was published on 7 Mar 2016 (last updated on 7 Mar 2016).