A FORMER owner of Scarborough FC has narrowly avoided being sent to jail.
Darrell Littlewood, also known as Jack Darrell Henry, was handed a suspended jail sentence yesterday after he exaggerated claims about obtaining council tax rebates for customers of his business which was called Council Tax Review.
In the first prosecution of its type in the country, 45-year-old Littlewood, now of Dewsbury, admitted 14 charges involving 12 complainants, five of whom were too elderly or infirm to attend the court hearing.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Henry’s firm had sent out misleading flyers, failed to make applications on behalf of clients and had not made refunds to people who had cancelled their contracts within a seven-day “cooling-off” period.
Judge James Stewart QC told Littlewood that his recklessness and exaggerated claims had been “a whisker away from fraud,” adding: “The only conclusion I can reach is that you deliberately over-egged the pudding in order to draw in clients to your business.
“Those who agreed to contract with you were inadequately served, if at all.”
But Judge Stewart accepted the submission that the offences related to a small percentage of Littlewood’s overall business and that no dishonesty had been alleged by the prosecution.
He also stated that the business had not targeted the elderly and that some clients had received tax rebates.
Littlewood took over Scarborough FC from Brooks Mileson in April 2001, alongside lottery winner Mick Taylor.
He vowed to preside over a new era at Boro and to build a “club of the people” at the McCain Stadium.
But the club ran into further financial problems under Littlewood’s reign as chairman and was taken over by Malcolm Reynolds in November 2001.
Littlewood went on to set up the Huddersfield-based Council Tax Review, which breached the regulations set out in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 between September 2009 and September 2010. The company is now trading as Rebrand.
Littlewood’s barrister, David Friesner, insisted the business was not a scam and said Rebrand currently employs 33 people and has 7,000 active clients, having reformed its practices.
Mr Friesner said the offences were committed as the result of poor procedures and he accepted a prosecution suggestion that his client was “deeply flawed” in his understanding of the rules for getting council tax reduced.
“He wasn’t really doing what it said on the tin,” conceded Mr Friesner.
Littlewood, who had a previous conviction for failing to keep proper accounting records and a caution for fraud by false representation, was arrested in July 2010 and the judge said he had demonstrated in his police interviews his flawed understanding of the proper procedures.
Littlewood, a father-of-two, now faces a costs bill of £12,500 and he must also do 150 hours’ unpaid work.
He also has to pay back a total of £455 to three clients who were not refunded their fees after they cancelled their contracts with Council Tax Review.