Sunday, August 25, 2013
A FRAUDSTER who operated a scam from a PO box address in Ottery St Mary has been jailed for bullying desperate customers into remortgaging their homes and pocketing the money.
Matt James flew off to live the high life at his home in Spain while his victims found themselves even deeper in debt and had their homes repossessed.
One suffered a heart attack, others were forced into bankruptcy and all spent years being harassed by debt collectors who should have been paid off with the money they gave to James.
He went on the run after his crooked Debt Advisory Company was exposed by BBC’s Watchdog programme and his credit licence was withdrawn by the Office of Fair Trading.
He was finally tracked down after a seven-year investigation led by the Devon and Cornwall Police.
James ran a series of companies with similar names which lured desperately indebted customers through adverts on the internet and in Yellow Pages and fleeced them out of £185,000.
He offered to negotiate on behalf of clients to reduce their repayments so they could remortgage their homes, release the equity, and clear their liabilities.
Instead he simply transferred the cash into his own account where he used it to start a new life for himself in Spain, Exeter Crown Court was told.
James, aged 40, of Rectory Road, Sible Hedingham, near Chelmsford, admitted one offence of fraud and five of obtaining property by deception between March 1, 2006 and September 13, 2008.
He was jailed for three years by Judge Phillip Wassall, who told him: “You were running a company providing a service for people who were seriously in debt.
“You were canvassing business from vulnerable people who came to you looking for a solution out of their debt crisis. What they got was the opposite. They trusted you personally. You knew their situation but you preyed on their vulnerability. It is that gross breach of trust that makes this case so serious,” he added.