Two fraudsters who tricked jobseekers into giving them money by holding a fake jobs fair avoided a prison sentence “by the skin of their teeth”.
Darren Mason, 41, of Parkstone Avenue, Manchester, and Howard Bland, 48, of Heaton Lodge, Manchester, hired a conference room at The Queens hotel in Leeds posing as a cleaning company holding a recruitment day on April 26 last year, British Transport Police said.
According to police, Leeds Crown Court heard that the men claimed to have contract work available with local banks, schools and hospitals.
They used local newspapers to place advertisements for a recruitment day for cleaning jobs with high rates of pay.
On attending, jobseekers were asked to fill in a fake application form before having a short interview.
The scammers made their money by asking attendees to pay a £10 fee for a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, which would never be carried out.
Some attendees became suspicious and alerted police. As the hotel falls on railway property, British Transport Police officers arrested Mason and Bland.
Around £750 is thought to have been taken from the victims in Leeds before officers stepped in, four hours before they were due to finish.
Mason and Bland today each received a six-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, after previously pleading guilty to fraud by false representation. They were both ordered to work 200 hours unpaid and pay £720 fines.
The judge, Recorder Abdul Iqbal, said: “You have been spared jail by the skin of your teeth. You both should be ashamed of yourselves. I have been told you have both shown remorse but I am not too sure that you have.”
The judge continued: “This was a sham and your deception was cruel against people who were struggling to find work and apply for jobs in the cleaning industry.”
Detective Constable Jason Ridgway, the investigating officer, said: “The lengths these two friends went to in order to scam and prey on people looking for work were despicable.
“They even created T-shirts with fake branding and posters to try and give their organisation added credibility and appear legitimate.
“Applicants were given false hope and virtually promised a job in the cleaning industry after their interview.
“Thanks to the quick thinking of some of their victims, we were able to quickly intervene and prevent the scammers from continuing this deplorable act.
“They planned on carrying out fake interviews throughout the rest of the afternoon and could have easily made over £1,000 for their efforts.”
Peter Wilson, National Fraud Authority director, said: “Unfortunately, we have seen this type of advance fee fraud which is often associated with employment scams.
“Fraudsters take advantage of job seekers or the long-term unemployed, many of whom often struggle to make ends meet.
“Primarily we see these sort of scams online and warn jobseekers to be aware that reputable companies won’t charge a fee to recruit staff.
“The cost of Criminal Records Bureau checks are met by the potential employer.”