Fraudster jailed for ‘psychic’ premium rate phone scam

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A FRAUDSTER has been jailed for his part in a phone scam in which he illegally received thousands of pounds in commission for calls made on premium rate numbers to five psychics who did not exist.

Paul James Jones not only pocketed the commission money gained from his dishonesty but left phone companies more than £30,000 out of pocket after failing to pay the bills on the accounts he set up to make the calls requesting “readings”.

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday he was eventually caught after inquiries were made into the unpaid landline accounts in various names at his home in Leeds and it was discovered he had run up the thousands of pounds making calls himself to the five “psychics”.

The company behind the premium rate numbers, unaware of the scam, would pay a legitimate commission for each contact or call made to an individual psychic and only realised after investigations began that money paid to the five concerned were going to the same named accounts.

It was then realised the psychics involved had been invented for the fraud.

Police inquiries traced the commission payments to bank accounts used by Jones and the scale of the dishonesty was uncovered.

David Dixon, prosecuting, said as a result of the fraud more than £37,000 in commission was paid into accounts accessed by Jones over the months concerned, while he had left two phone companies with unpaid bills totalling £32,000 in the process.

Initially he had arranged four landlines using false names with Phone Co-op at his home in Leeds which had run up £5,000 in calls in the first two months alone.

It was when inquiries began into the unpaid bills for those accounts that it was discovered he had subsequently also arranged 12 modem phone accounts with Talk Talk giving either his address in Leeds or another connected to him in Blackpool, allowing the scam to continue as more calls were made, running up further commission.

Jones, 31 of Compton Place, Harehills, Leeds was jailed for 28 months after he admitted three charges of fraud.

Jailing him, Judge Neil Clark said it was an unusual crime using phone accounts for which he did not pay to gain himself commission illegally.

Although companies rather than individuals were involved, it was not a victimless crime since it could hit the businesses financially which could end in job losses or price increases.

Simon Alexander said in mitigation for Jones that he had build up a large amount of debt on credit cards and saw the fraud as a way out of his problems.

He had not thought of the scheme himself but had learned of it from criminals who he could not name.

Others were clearly involved with him in setting up the scheme, since he could not have done it alone, which meant Jones had not received the full proceeds.