Jail for pair in mobility aids scam

Timothy Wright and Vincent Watkinson
Timothy Wright and Vincent Watkinson
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TWO remorseless company directors who exploited elderly and vulnerable people in a £1m sales scam have been jailed for five years each.

Timothy Wright, 47, and Vincent Watkinson, 51, two of the men behind Derbyshire-based Compass Mobility Ltd, sold mobility aids to the elderly and disabled by using high-pressure sales tactics, including remaining in customers’ houses for lengthy periods of time, even after they had been asked to leave, and cold calling.

A judge who sentenced them yesterday told them they had displayed a “wholly arrogant and uncaring attitude” and showed not a “jot of remorse”.

An investigation into the pair and a third director, John Higginson, 64, was launched by the Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Scambusters Team in 2009.

A jury heard during a trial at Leeds Crown Court they sold a motorised scooter to a man who was registered blind and had uncontrolled epilepsy and an inflatable bath lift to a blind woman who could not operate it.

They signed people up to unaffordable finance agreements, then refused to cancel them.

Wright, of Derby, and Watkinson, of Baythorpe Road, Chesterfield, were both found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

They were accused of committing the offences over several years and the Scambusters team had said hundreds of inquiries and complaints were recorded against the company, which was set up in 2005.

Deborah Sherwin, prosecuting, said: “Trading standards received complaints effectively totalling about one million pounds.”

Sentencing the pair, who were arrested in February 2009, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: “The jury found you two had conspired to defraud the elderly based on dishonesty - the deliberate targeting of those most vulnerable in society.

“I heard evidence on the way customers and their relatives were treated when they attempted to return products and get refunds.

“It showed a complete lack of empathy and care.”

He added that there was significant evidence of pressurised selling techniques and on some occasions contracts were signed just to get the salesman out of the house.

The court heard a second company was also set up to continue the scam, called REO Marketing and Judge Marson QC added that in his view REO was a phoenix company and that they were being “paid out by cash in brown envelopes” from it while on bail, which he called an aggravating feature.

Wright and Watkinson have also been disqualified from being company directors for 15 years.

Paul O’Shea, representing Watkinson, said that there was no evidence of his client living a lavish lifestyle. Simon Thomas, for Wright, said his client is a family man with four children and is concerned how his partner will cope.

Higginson, of Lower Pilsley, Derbyshire, had earlier admitted a range of offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. He will be sentenced in October.

Speaking outside court, Higginson said: “We all truly regret anything the victims have suffered from this case, obviously.”

The investigation involved the help of trading standards officers in Derbyshire, West Yorkshire, Hull, Sheffield, Rotherham, East Riding, Doncaster and York.

Scambusters team leader Susan Rumford said after the sentence: “Hopefully it will serve as a warning. I don’t think it (the sentence) shocked them, they don’t care

“Hopefully now they will look to change the law to protect the elderly. I’d like to see that no contracts are signed for mobility products in vulnerable peoples’ homes.”