How the MEN exposed the scam
A fraudulent telesales business has been exposed after an undercover investigation by the Manchester Evening News.
Peter Kemp, Ian Bates and Gary Callaghan had pretended to run a police-backed crime prevention unit to help children – a scam estimated to have raked in thousands of pounds a year and which claimed 7,000 victims nationwide.
The MEN sent reporter Sarah Lester undercover into the company’s offices posing as a telesales worker and was able to expose the fraud. The paper was praised by the judge, the police and trading standards bosses when the case came to court.
Lester revealed that staff were ringing companies across the UK pretending that they had already agreed to buy an advertisement in an anti-drugs booklet and tricking them into believing they were helping children.
Some staff blatantly lied when they said they were from a charity or from the police.
During her time undercover, Lester pieced together the background of the conmen and discovered other companies they were linked to, including a debt-collecting arm which sent out threats of legal action on out-of-date county court forms for payments that were never owed in the first place.
Lester’s findings triggered a three-year police investigation which ended in all three men appearing at Manchester Crown Court charged with conspiracy to defraud.
Kemp was jailed for a month for contempt of court after failing to turn up to the original hearing. The three men were stripped of the profits they made from the scam, given suspended jail sentences and banned from being company directors in the UK for five years.
Judge Anthony Hammond praised the MEN’s “public spiritedness”. He said: “The MEN and Sarah Lester are to be commended for the steps they took in exposing the way the companies carried out their business. They did rather more than some of the other authorities in exposing them.”
Police and trading standards bosses also welcomed the court result and the paper’s “vital contribution”.
MEN editor Paul Horrocks said: “It was a painstaking job but I was very pleased that the paper was able to provide the evidence which brought these three conmen to justice. Results like this show the importance of investing time in investigations which can become complex.”
Lester said it was great that she had been given the time to do the undercover work. Two years ago the MEN set up a dedicated investigations unit staffed by Lester and former news editor Lisa Roland.
By Jean Morgan