A former owner of Scarborough Football Club has been jailed after fleecing people out of £250,000 in a tax rebate scam.
Fraudster Jack Henry, also known as Darrell Littlewood, duped householders into believing his companies could reduce their council tax bills for a fee of up to £185.
He admitted fraud and money laundering at a previous hearing at Leeds Crown Court and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison. He has also been banned from being a company director for 13 years.
Henry 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 Henry’s reign and was taken over by Malcolm Reynolds in November 2001.
From February 2012, trading standards received more than 1,600 complaints about a number of businesses operating under Council Tax Review, CTR, Reband UK Limited, Household Claims and Smartband.
Sentencing Henry, Judge Guy Kearl QC said the conspiracy began the day after the businessman had received a suspended sentence for similar offences involving misleading commercial practices.
He said: “You carried on regardless of that suspended sentence adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach as you pursued other customers.
“It was your idea, you pursued it vigorously and relentlessly in order essentially to line your own pockets to keep the businesses going even at the expense of your staff.”
The court heard that Henry, 48, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire, operated the businesses either as director or sole proprietor and had conned hundreds of householders by sending a representative to doorstep them.
Prosecuting, Rebecca Brown explained how the investigation was launched by the National Trading Standards Scambuster team following the string of complaints about the businesses based in Huddersfield.
Miss Brown said customers were either “cold-called” or given leaflets which suggested they were overpaying on council tax and were in many cases “guaranteed a rebate” when that was not the case.
A sales person would then sign up those interested with Henry’s companies offering to apply to the Valuation Officer for council tax rebanding on their behalf for a fee often up to £185, with commission sought from a successful rebate.
But she told the court: “For many customers no application was made or when it was made it was so lacking in quality it could not be considered by the agency.”
She said the firms also indicated the company used solicitors and surveyors and inferred the process was complicated or inaccessible for homeowners to apply themselves when that was not the case.
Miss Brown said a further aspect of the case was that letters would be sent to people who had obtained rebanding often by themselves and not as a result of anything done by Henry’s companies but still demanding commission.
Intimidation was then used through people calling at their homes suggesting the banding could go up again if the commission was not paid.
And customers complained of little or no work being done by Henry’s firms.
During his sentencing, the judge pointed out that Henry would switch trading names when he needed to, he controlled the “purse strings”, was at the top of the ladder, and used bullying, coercion and intimidation towards some of the victims to get money.
Many of those involved were elderly, vulnerable and many described themselves now as feeling “sick and ashamed at their stupidity having been taken in and conned by your companies”.
Now it has been revealed that Henry will not have to hand back any of the £250,000 because investigators can’t find any assets.
A spokesman for the York-based regional arm of the National Trading Standards Scambuster and e-Crime Team, said: “During the course of the investigation we made various enquiries about assets for any post-conviction confiscation order but we were unable to locate any.
“We were looking for any realisable assets, which could be a bank account, property or cash, but there wasn’t anything to pursue.
“There is very little benefit in spending thousands of pounds investigating to get only £2 back.”
The spokesman said investigators were satisfied that the courts had dealt an “appropriate punishment” for what was a “serious fraud”.
Sentences were also passed to two others - Wendy Smith and John Boon - who denied charges but were found guilty after a trial in August.
Smith, 39, of Blackburn, Lancashire, acted as a saleswoman for Henry’s businesses and was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. She has been jailed for two years.
Boon, 59, of Leeds, worked as an accountant for Henry, and was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to blackmail. He was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years.
Lord Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “These scammers preyed on innocent and vulnerable victims, often ripping them off for hundreds of pounds.”