Remember Dodgy Dave, the debt collector you don't want to meet? Well, we described that article as "a work of fiction" but warned "this kind of person is out there".
Now it seems Slippery Stu - or, to use his real name, Stuart Paul Cooper - is a real-world example of the kinds of debt collecting 'methods' we outlined in our Dodgy Dave article.
If those sound like similar names, then there's good reason - the two companies were both based at the same Wakefield premises, used the same customer database, VAT registration and bank account, and corresponded with customers on interchangeable letterheads.
All of that might not sound too suspicious - after all, when you're chasing a debt, you're probably not too fussed if the cheque arrives stapled to the wrong letterhead.
However, for customers of the two Baker and Bonds, things got a little worse...
A Supercharged Service
First of all, clients of BBL and BBUK were asked to pay fees upfront before any debt collection work was carried out - and these reached as high as £595 in some cases, which is clearly a substantial sum for sole traders and small businesses.
BBL and BBUK also added fees to the amount recovered from the debtor - effectively charging twice for their service.
Insolvency Service investigators found that the Baker and Bonds failed to provide the services for which they were contracted, and even went so far as to threaten and abuse their clients.
Both ceased to trade in November 2011 (BBL began in August 2011; BBUK began in October 2011) but there is evidence that they continued to collect funds from debtors beyond that date - it is unclear whether those funds ever reached the creditors.
Alex Deane, investigations supervisor at the Insolvency Service, says: "These companies engaged in unacceptable business practices and sought to dupe both their customers, and those customers' clients.
"Despite operating in the financial sector, they showed a complete disregard towards their duty to keep proper books and records."
Searching for Slippery Stu
Bullring House in Wakefield is an 80-mile drive from Topping Street in Blackpool. "That's interesting," you might be thinking - but what's more interesting is that, in March 2012, a Stuart Paul Cooper opened Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd registered company number 08008665 at a Topping Street address.
Is this Slippery Stu back from the shady depths of the 'done a runner' approach to company directorship? The three companies - Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd, Baker and Bond Ltd and Baker and Bond (UK) Ltd - all appear on his individual profile page on the company information site Duedil.
The record for Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd also contains another postcode, FY2 0BN, which is a residential address on Longford Avenue in Blackpool - is this Slippery Stu's new hideout, or just an innocent bystander? We'll be watching to see if and when Cooper surfaces again...
NB Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd in Blackpool should not be confused with Absolute Debt Recovery Barnstaple, or with any other companies that trade under similar names - and nor should any other Stuart Paul Coopers who happen to work in the debt recovery business suffer damage to their reputations due to the actions of this man.
Update January 2014
It would appear that slippery Stu didn't learn his lesson given his brush with the insolvency service, as he has now been jailed for a fraud of £155k. Read more in our article "From Dodgy Debt Collector to Convicted Fraudster".
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