A former West Yorkshire Police Detective Sergeant has been convicted of money laundering after standing accused of operating or being involved in the operation of fraudulent debt elimination companies and escort agencies.
DS Christopher Taylor ran Wakefield-based First Debt Recovery, established in 2008 and supposedly drawing on his experience with the CID and Fraud Squad.
However, it was later alleged that First Debt Recovery had been laundering money for several businesses operated by Anthony Muldoon, including five bogus debt elimination firms and a total of 28 escort agencies.
In the debt elimination scam, 'customers' were asked to pay upfront on the promise that debts would be written off, but did not receive the service they were promised.
Meanwhile, advertisements were placed in national newspapers in the UK, inviting people to apply to become escorts - but again, after paying an upfront fee, these applicants never received any work.
'Over 17,000 victims'
A report from the unProfessional Standards Department (uPSD), a group of experienced investigators who work to uncover misconduct and criminality among police officers, puts the total number of victims at more than 17,000.
Those hit by the escort scam paid upfront fees of almost £600 each, while the uPSD points to reviews of First Debt Recovery that indicate customers of theirs also paid several hundred pounds with little or no return.
"Taylor charged his clients an upfront fee to collect debts but, according to the reviews, failed to do so, his First Debt Recovery business also operated without a Consumer Credit licence."
In all, the value of the fraud committed by Taylor, Muldoon and four others amounted to £5.7 million, according to a BBC report that puts the number of victims at closer to 14,000.
Muldoon admitted charges of money laundering and of conspiracy to defraud; however, it is important to note that Taylor and another defendant, Malaga resident Bradley Rogers, were convicted only of money laundering, and were cleared on the charges of conspiracy to defraud.
Outfoxing the fraudsters
The ability to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is largely in your own hands, as long as you know what to look out for.
The most obvious warning sign in all of the above cons is being asked to pay an upfront fee before you have received any kind of chargeable service. Scammers have been using this tactic for so long it even has its own name, an 'advance fee' fraud. Sid Home, our MD (and a former British Transport Police Officer) explains:
"We know from our own clients that have been caught in the past by dodgy debt collectors, that fraudsters will say just about anything to get you to make that first payment. Many claim to be able to recover payment in record time, or that they can make directors personally liable for company debts.
"But chances are that, after you pay that first payment, nothing will be done. Or worse still, the dodgy debt collector does recover your debt, just before sinking the company and taking your funds with it.
"Whilst it can be tempting to listen to promises when your company is owed money, you should always remember the old adage, 'if it looks too good to be true, it probably is'.
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 by flickr user Alaskan Dude is licensed under CC BY 2.0