A MOTHER and son who operated a £1.5m vacuum cleaner servicing and sales scam targeting vulnerable people have been jailed for a total of ten years.
Linda Scoffin, 65, and her 31-year-old son Tom ran Leeds-based company Excel Servicing Ltd, which sold unnecessary servicing contracts to Dyson vacuum cleaner owners.
The company, based at Grant Avenue, Harehills, cold-called vulnerable people, including the elderly and dementia sufferers, across the north of England.
Customers were misled to believe Excel represented Dyson and Excel did unnecessary repairs costing up to £200.
High-pressure sales techniques were used to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners costing up to £2,000 to elderly people, who were unable to use them.
Leeds Crown Court heard company director Tom Scoffin, of Woodlands Grange, Park Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, lived the “high life” with proceeds from the fraud and drove a Porsche and an expensive Audi.
The pair denied conspiracy to defraud over a 15-month period between February 2014 and May 2015, but were convicted by a Leeds Crown Court jury after a trial.
Jailing Tom Scoffin: for seven years, Judge Tom Bayliss QC told him: “You were living the high life on the proceeds of this fraud. At one point you were driving a Porsche and you had an expensive Audi.”
Jailing Linda Scoffin, of Lincoln, for three years, Judge Bayliss said her motive was not personal gain, but to make a profitable business for her son.
Judge Bayliss told her: “You Linda Scoffin knew that as the fraud continued vulnerable victims would come to harm. Some with dementia were harassed to buy expensive contract plans or expensive vacuum cleaners that were totally unsuitable.”
The court heard an 82-year-old woman was sold a Kirby vacuum cleaner, which she was unable to use.
After receiving a string of complaints, National Trading Standards Yorkshire and Humber Regional Investigations Team based at City of York Council launched an investigation and took 34 witness statements between February 2014 and May 2015.
The investigation found that the Scoffins paid for numerous foreign holidays from money made by Excel Servicing, while Thomas spent in bars, restaurants and casinos.
A total of £1.5m was received into the Excel Servicing business account for the period of the investigation.
Investigators found Linda Scoffin also ran her own business, KB Midlands Limited, from Lincoln. It supplied and sold Kirby cleaners and supplied the machines to Excel Servicing.
Simon Myerson QC, for Tom Scoffin, said: “This was not a company run so that the directors and those involved in it could take money left right and centre and spend it in terms of the lifestyle which was the envy of the western world.”
Steven Harvey QC for Linda Scoffin, said she was successful businesswoman for 36 years, adding: “It’s rare for someone like her to come before this court to be sentenced for an offence of this nature.”
Coun Ann Reid, interim executive member with responsibility for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said: “This tenacious investigation is to be congratulated: it has revealed a disgraceful fraud against vulnerable people and has brought those responsible to justice.”
Tom and Linda Scoffin now face confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.