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8 October 2013, 12:58
Two rogue traders have been jailed for four years each, for conning people across Hampshire out of £200,000.
Simon David Gibson, 34, of King's Road, Basingstoke, and Mark Haire, 25, of no fixed abode, were sentenced on Friday October 4 at Winchester Crown Court to four years in prison each after conning customers across Hampshire and the South of England.
Following a telephone call from a concerned customer in Tadley, Hampshire County Council's Trading Standards Service began an investigation into the activities of Gibson and Haire's company, Eclipse Solar Systems Ltd, with the assistance of police and support from the Tri-Region Scambusters Team.
Hampshire Trading Standards uncovered a series of scams, including fake discounts, and bogus 'prize cheques' which were offered in exchange for cash.
Using the business, which has now been dissolved, as a veil to cover their fraud, Gibson and Haire used cold calls and pressure selling along with confidence trickery to extract money from victims who were left without their promised installations, and in some cases were sent into debt after cheques from the company failed to clear.
One Hampshire customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said of his dealings with Gibson and Haire: "The whole episode has left me with a hollow feeling of being abused and violated, almost as though my house has been burgled. Unfortunately not everyone in society can be trusted and there are individuals such as this pair with very limited moral standards. If there is anything positive to be taken out of the event, it is that I shall be more careful and sceptical in the future."
Gibson, who was managing director of Eclipse Solar Sytems Ltd, pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to 26 counts of Fraud, and one of obtaining services dishonestly, with total losses caused by his actions being in excess of £200,000, which included monies repeatedly taken from elderly and vulnerable victims.
Sentencing Gibson, Her Honour Judge Miller QC, described the scale of his fraud as 'breathtaking'.
Self-titled 'sales-director' Haire, pleaded not-guilty to the 16 charges brought against him.
After a three week trial that began on 9 September at Winchester Crown Court, the jury took 10 hours and 45 minutes to find Haire guilty of 10 counts of committing fraud by false representation. The court heard that Haire told 'glib lies' and had a number of previous convictions for dishonesty.
Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Member for Policy and Resources, Cllr Roy Perry said:
"One of the main focusses of Hampshire County Council's Trading Standards Service is to protect vulnerable residents from fraudsters like this. I thank the members of the public brave enough to come forward and bring this fraud to our attention and congratulate our skilled officers on securing the conviction of these two men. If their criminal activity remained undetected they could still be draining the bank accounts of those who are least able to protect themselves."
Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) said:
"I am pleased to see yet another successful outcome from one of NTSB's Scambusters teams and its regional partners. Their continued efforts to investigate businesses is one step forward in protecting vulnerable communities. These efforts also protect legitimate businesses while preventing consumers from incurring unnecessary debt."
If anyone has any information about traders who are cold calling or requires any advice on doorstep crime they can contact Hampshire County Council's Quick Response Team on 01962 833666 (Monday - Friday 0900hrs to 1700hrs) where specially trained officers are on hand to provide advice.