Jail for fireplace fraudster who fleeced online shoppers of £135,000 in just three months

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A ROGUE trader who fleeced hundreds of consumers of £135,000 over a three month period - and failed to deliver the fires and fire surrounds that had been ordered - has been jailed.

Andrew James, who was the sole managing director of Home Firesides Ltd - trading via www.firesgalore.co.uk and www.homefiresides.co.uk - was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court to two years and three months behind bars after pleading guilty to fraudulent trading.

In 2011, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Service received 120 complaints regarding non delivery of fires and fire surrounds from the firm, which was listed as being based in Halifax.

The websites advertised the products at extremely low prices and offered free delivery on every order. There was no evidence to suggest that any orders were fulfilled or that there was any intention to fulfil these orders.

The court heard over 300 orders from consumers based throughout the UK were placed and over £135,000 was taken by the company between August and October 2011.

The majority of customers contacted the company but never received a response or their orders.

Many were able to claim refunds via their banks and credit card providers, however the financial loss remained with the financial constitution Worldpay (UK) Ltd, who provided the secure payment facility on the website.

As well as his prison sentence, Mr James has been disqualified as a director for 10 years and a compensation order of over £121,000 was granted to Worldpay (UK) Ltd.

David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, which carried out a lengthy investigation, said: “This has been a long and complex investigation with multiple victims. We are pleased that the court have handed down such a severe sentence in recognition of the defendant’s dishonesty in his dealings with his customers.”

Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee said “This case is a good example of how the work of Trading Standards is changing due to technological advances. This shows how online fraud originating in West Yorkshire can affect consumers on a national basis.”

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