Recently we featured an article on an individual called Phillip Buffett and his "Uber Intelligence" group of companies. This individual came to our attention when we were tasked by two freelancers to pursue unpaid invoices totalling over £10k.
It soon became apparent to us that the individual in question was a known fraudster, with a history of criminality and a penchant for defrauding individuals, businesses and even professional athletes. He was also already serving a seven year ban as a director for his previous frauds.
The original story "Croydon conman who fooled Harrods with a dud cheque" quickly became one of our most read and commented articles, with businesses and individuals lining up to share their tales of woe at the hands of Mr Buffett. We also received numerous calls to our offices from creditors of the various "Uber Intelligence" group of companies and even from former members of Mr Buffett's staff.
All of these people had similar stories to share, they had supplied goods or services to Mr Buffett personally, or to one of his companies and all had struggled to recover the funds due. So you can imagine how pleased we were to hear that in May of 2013 the elusive Mr Buffett had been remanded in custody, pending a trial for defrauding Harrods out of goods worth just shy of a quarter of a million pounds.
Fast forward to April 2014, Mr Buffett sits in the dock, resplendent in a red Ralph Lauren shirt. The court hears about Mr Buffett's 48 previous convictions for fraud and the prosecution outlines a further seven counts of fraud against businesses and individuals valued at over £119k that Mr Buffett admits. The Judge Simon Oliver, castigated Buffett and told him:
"I've got a psychologist's report on you and it talks about you as a man who thinks it may be important to be perceived as important, successful and wealthy.
"Your behaviour has all the hallmarks of a Walter Mitty character. In the fantasy world in which you live you think you are rich, you think you are successful. You are neither rich nor successful. Your 48 (previous) convictions show me you are completely unsuccessful in all that you do."
A Day in Court
The stage seemed set for Mr Buffett to once again be jailed for his crimes and for the financial suffering and hardship his actions caused his creditors to endure. Alas for those that had been defrauded, justice would not be done this day.
Judge Oliver, sitting at Reading Crown Court accepted that it would be much easier to simply send Buffett straight back to prison,but he said that prison "had not worked in the past" and it was in his opinion "a waste of state funds".
Instead he decided to pass a sentence that he was aware some might call overly lenient and that members of the press might view as inappropriate.
Judge Oliver then announced the sentence. The repeat fraudster and convicted criminal Mr Philip Buffett received a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He also ordered Buffett, of Fairfield Road, Croydon, to carry out a paltry 200 hours of community work, to be placed under a supervision for two years, and to pay the standard victim surcharge of £120 (as a percentage of the goods and services misappropriated from creditors and businesses by Mr Buffett, this equates to approximately 0.0324%).
In addition he imposed a further directorship ban, to last for 10 years in addition to the previous seven year ban (that was roundly ignored by Mr Buffett when he set up his "Uber Intelligence" group of companies).
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Get Out of Jail, Free
Now we aren't an unreasonable company, we don't think that debtors should be imprisoned, or sent to Australia. We appreciate that in legitimate business, sometimes things happen and people go unpaid. But these companies were, in our opinion, set up specifically for the purposes of defrauding other businesses. Why else would Mr Buffett ignore his previous and still active ban as a director? Why else would he change his name by Deed Poll if not to try and circumvent this existing ban?
In fact it appears to us, that had the convicted fraudster Philip Buffett not targeted Harrods and committed an obvious criminal offence, that the behaviour of his illegally operated limited companies may well have continued for some time as in most cases, the police are not interested in what they generally perceive as "a civil matter".
We have said it before, and now we are saying it again, the limited company system in this country is broken. It enables fraudsters to operate with virtual impunity hiding behind the words "limited liability" and this limited liability disadvantages the honest businesses that have provided goods or services in good faith.
We would urge anyone who is approached by Philip Buffett or his pseudonyms of Mark Cas / Mark Castley / Mark Roger Castley / Mark Hill-Wood / Marc Marshall to avoid providing credit to him personally, or any company he is involved in. If you were a victim of Mr Buffett and you consider his sentence to be Unduly Lenient then you might still have time to raise your objections with the Police and CPS, more info on unduly lenient sentences can be found on the Crown Prosecution Service site here.
Anyone interested in what Mr Mark Cas/ Mark Castley/ Mark Roger Castley / Philip Buffett / Mark Hill-Wood / Marc Marshall is up to now should head on over to google and look up his brand new name Mr Mark Hill-Wood and his brand new company Fullproof Intelligence (Mr Hill-Wood is now "Trading As" Fullproof Intelligence as he is banned from being involved in the formation, running or management of a limited company until his 17 year ban has elapsed).
If you don't have time to google then try the following links:
"Private investigator accused of scamming death plunge tycoon Scot Young's ex-wife in hunt for his 'missing millions' exposed as fantasist who rubbed shoulders with sports stars" - The Daily Mail
"Fraud police focus on former MI6 spy's role in high-stakes divorce" - The Independent
"F1 cars, Saudi royalty and hostage negotiation: serial conman Mark Hill-Wood is back in business" - The Croydon Advertiser
We will of course update this story further should new information come to light.
Update July 2016
We passed a considerable amount of information on Mr Cas/Buffett/Hill-Wood/Marshall to the talented Gareth Davies, a reporter at the Croydon Advertiser. We are pleased to see he has made good use of this info and he continues to expose the activities of everyone's favourite fraudster. You can read his series of articles on the Advertiser site here:
EXPOSED: The career conman up to his old tricks 25 years after first conviction
Oops! Email blunder shows career conman Mark Hill-Wood HAS assumed a new identity
Croydon Advertiser exposé is 'perfect example' of why private investigators need to be regulated
Croydon fraudster 'conned shamed footballer Adam Johnson's family out of £170k'
Croydon conman told me he was ex-special forces and helped people flee Paris after terror attacks
And our personal favorite piece...
Oops! Email blunder shows career conman Mark Hill-Wood HAS assumed a new identity
As before, we would urge anyone approached by this character to conduct extensive due diligence and to avoid providing any goods or services on credit.
A list of his recent known aliases is below:
Mr Mark Cas
Mark Roger Castley
Philip Buffett - Uber Intelligence Ltd
Mark Hill-Wood - FullProof Intelligence
Marc Marshall - Stellar Intelligence
Over 150 Years Of Industry Experience
Our modest but highly skilled team has a combined total of over 150 years of experience in commercial credit management and B2B debt collection. From independent IT contractors to major film and TV publishers, Safe Collections has the knowledge and experience you need to get paid quickly and cost effectively.
Image "Lego Police Station" by flickr user Shadowman39 is licensed under CC BY 2.0