Fraudsters in court for ‘cruel’ jobs deception

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TWO fraudsters who cruelly tricked desperate jobseekers into giving them cash at a recruitment fair in Yorkshire have been given suspended jail terms.

Darren Mason and Howard Bland hired a room for a day at the Queens Hotel in Leeds posing as a cleaning company looking to hire workers.

They claimed to have contracts available with the NHS and local authorities and offered higher than usual rates of pay when they advertised in local evening papers.

As a result a steady stream of hopefuls turned up at the recruitment day on April 26 last year and were asked to fill in a fake application form and face a short interview.

The jobseekers were then asked to hand over a £10 fee for a Criminal Records Bureau check, Stephanie Hancock, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday.

But British Transport police were alerted when some of those attending became suspicious and halted the recruitment session at 1.30pm, seizing around £750.

Miss Hancock said the pair had organised a professional operation wearing T-shirts with the fake company branding and having a banner showing pictures of cleaners with their real companies logo blanked out.

Mason, 41, of Parkstone Avenue, and Bland, 48 of Heaton Lodge, both Manchester, admitted fraud and were given six months in prison suspended for 12 months, 200 hours’ unpaid work, with an activities requirement and ordered to pay £720 costs each.

Recorder Abdul Iqbal told them they should be ashamed of themselves and said they had only escaped immediate imprisonment because of their situations. “This was a sham and a deception which was cruel against individuals who were desperately trying to look for work.”

Hannah Wood, for Mason, said he had never been in trouble before but after his own company collapsed he was struggling financially.

Carl Richmond, for Bland, said the scheme was ill thought out because the advertising and room hire had cost £1,000.

Detective Constable Jason Ridgway said the pair’s scam was “despicable” giving false hope.