Central Beds to benefit from fraudster's seized assets

Central Bedfordshire Council in is line to receive more than £86,000 towards crime prevention after a court ordered a convicted timeshare fraudster to hand over his assets.

That’s despite the fraudster and his company being from Warwickshire.

Andrew Stephen Harris, director of Shakespeare Classic Line Ltd, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in November 2013 after being found guilty of defrauding his customers.

However, he was back in the dock at Warwick Crown Court on Monday, 8 February for a proceeds of crime hearing. There, it was agreed that Harris had benefited from his crime to the tune of £550,000 and a confiscation order was made in the sum of £350,000 (his available assets). If he does not pay the amount within three months, Harris faces a further two and a half years’ jail time.

It was also agreed that his company had illegally received £550,000 and a confiscation order was made in the sum of £225,988.27 (Shakespeare Classic Line Ltd’s available assets).

The case was brought by Warwickshire County Council’s trading standards team. But in order to successfully bring the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) action, the Midlands council employed Central Beds’ specialist financial fraud investigator Phil Richards.

Phil is part of the council’s specialist Financial Investigation Unit, which uses its considerable expertise to help seize criminals’ assets once they have been convicted to ensure that crime doesn’t pay.

The team works with around 25 local authorities from the Midlands to Wales and the West Country. Since 2009 the Financial Investigation Unit has obtained more than £7.2million in confiscation orders for different authorities, bringing in almost £1million to Central Bedfordshire.

The latest case will see Central Beds receive £86,348.96 if all of the assets are sold for the amount that was scheduled at court.

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “This is an excellent result for Central Bedfordshire – and for the Financial Investigation Unit which continues to punch above its weight.

“They may only be a small team, but such is the experience and expertise of its members that they are rightly in demand to help recover proceeds of crime both here and across the UK.

“There’s an old saying that crime doesn’t pay – and the hard work of people like Phil ensures that is true for convicted criminals when they have their assets seized.”

For more information about the Financial Investigation Unit and how to employ its services, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/fiu

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