By: NATASHA SMITH
ELEVEN PEOPLE are on trial in the UK accused of being involved in a damp proofing scam, which was brought to its knees following a successful investigation with “excellent teamwork between the Police, Trading Standards and parties abroad, such as The Resident”, according to a spokesperson from Lancashire Constabulary.
The Resident raised the alarm about a dubious company operating in the Algarve that was offering free damp proofing and fire safety surveys (See The Resident December 1, 2006). It was suspected that two of the names which the firm used were Nationwide Property Protection and Britannia Home Improvements as well as Safeguard.
A former employee in the Algarve spoke exclusively to The Resident about this company and revealed that it was targeting residents in the UK, who were likely to be living alone and over the age of 50 as well as UK residents in Spain.
The Resident was contacted by police forces in the UK to assist with information.
Officers investigating the case described it as a “nasty and sophisticated” scam and that a base in the Algarve was used as a call centre for the operation.
The fraudsters used hard sell tactics to persuade homeowners to pay for work that was unnecessary and in some cases, police believe the so-called inspectors secretly injected water into the walls at the homes of victims to prove repairs were necessary.
The suspected ring leader, Nigel John Hudson, and his wife, Sarah, were arrested by the US Marshall Service in Florida in July and extradited to the UK to face trial at Preston Crown Court, in England.
Hudson has pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy to obtain property through deception along with Karl Jeeves, Lawrence Baron, Jack Brown, and Alan Brown. However, Sarah Hudson, Mark Hudson, Joseph O’Toole, Paul Markey, Scott Magrory and Daniel Sharples have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary told The Resident: “The trial is ongoing and after a break for Christmas, it will continue in January”.
“It involved a scam by which they obtained up to 1.5 million pounds per year from the life savings of elderly people, including expats. They have been operating in the UK, Portugal and Spain. The charges relate to offences committed in the past 12 months. However, we believe it has been going on for up to 10 years with around 1,500 victims each year, mainly targeting the elderly”. The scam has been valued at an estimated 10 million pounds sterling (13.9 million euros).
A verdict is likely to be delivered in mid January and in February.
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