Have you heard the one about the Croydon conman who paid for his shopping in Harrods with a £245,000 dud cheque?
It's no joke - 49-year-old Philip Buffett of Fairfield Road faces a jail term for fraud after paying with a cheque from a closed account for goods including a £183,000 Hublot watch.
He also bought a £20,000 Hublot watch on April 24th 2013 as part of his Harrods haul, so at least he'll know how much time he's served during his sentence.
Buffett sounds like a Norman Stanley Fletcher kind of figure, who sees serving a prison sentence as a minor inconvenience - the Croydon Guardian reports that, when confronted with his crime, he confessed.
DS Richard Keene of Notting Hill CID tells the publication: "Buffett is a conman who has already served time for earlier frauds."
Those frauds include conning funds out of Team GB Olympic competitors in the run-up to London 2012, for what he said would be lucrative sponsorship contracts.
Buffett has also used the names Mark Cas, Mark Roger Castley and most recently Mark Hill-Wood - all of which should not be confused with other individuals of similar names.
So, what does this have to do with Safe Collections?
Uber Intelligence Ltd
The somewhat ironically named 'Uber Intelligence Ltd' is registered at an address at The Courtyard, 69 High St, Ascot - and again, should not be confused with similarly named companies elsewhere.
A quick look on Duedil will reveal that its director is Mr Phillip George Buffett - a name that may sound familiar.
Its fancy-sounding address hardly lives up to the hype either, as if you visit it in person, you'll be confronted by a funeral director's.
And yet, we've encountered Uber Intelligence Ltd - and Mr Phillip George Buffett - not once, but twice.
A High-Risk Proposition
Two Safe Collections clients delivered Uber Intelligence Ltd £5,000 and £4,000 of work respectively, but did not receive any payment.
Had they approached us beforehand, we would have advised against carrying out any work for the company - not only because it is run by a known fraudster, but also because, as a brand-new company with no credit limit, we would have considered it to be a high-risk proposition.
Instead, as the work has already been done for Uber Intelligence Ltd, Safe Collections get to pursue Mr Buffett for payment.
So far, he doesn't seem too pleased.
The highlight from our pursuit of Mr Buffett so far has been hearing him rant about being chased by a bunch of northerners.
We're proud of our northern presence - after all, northerners are renowned for being straight-talking and trustworthy in business, so where better could a debt collector be based?
Mr Buffett might be particularly surprised to hear, however, that our managing director Sid Home is originally from Croydon too!
Success So Far...
While it's easy to mock conmen for thinking they can get away with it, there's also a very serious side to all of this, as the latest KPMB Fraud Barometer shows total fraud cases surpassed £500 million in the first half of 2013, up by a quarter year-on-year.
Supply chain fraud in particular is described in the report as "a huge financial cost" that "also causes real human damage".
For any business, several thousands of pounds is an unacceptable amount to lose to a fraudster - but when you are freelance, a loss of this magnitude could quite simply mean the end of your business. Remember if in any doubt about the solvency of a client, secure a credit report from a reputable provider and think carefully about extending any credit.
Above all else, treat newly incorporated businesses with a great deal of caution. If your invoices ultimately go unpaid most new businesses will not have the cashflow or assets to satisfy any judgment.
Original story in the Croydon Guardian
Uber Intelligence Ltd on DueDil
Phillip Buffett on Linkedin
Uber Intelligence Group on Linkedin
The "Prestige" address on Google Maps
KPMG Fraud Barometer
Image from Malias shared under the creative commons license.
Update 30th of July 2013
We have now been approached by a number of other companies that are also owed money by Mr Buffett / Mr Cas and his group of Uber companies. It would also appear from records available at Companies House that Mark Cas has been banned as a director until the 9th of March 2018!
If your company has been left out of pocket by this individual or one of his companies we want to hear from you, leave us a comment below or contact us.
Update 8th of August 2013
The calls keep coming regarding the infamous Mr Mark Cas/Philip Buffett, we are now aware of suppliers to the Uber group of companies owed well in excess of £150K! If you are a creditor of Uber we would strongly urge you to make a complaint with the Insolvency Service, more details of which can be found on the Gov.UK site here.
Update April 2014
As you can see in the comments below, Philip Buffett / Mark Cas / Mark Castley was recently faced justice in the courts for his crimes. if you can call a two year sentence, suspended for two years justice. More on this in our follow up article "Croydon Conman Philip Buffett walks free from court"
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.