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Norwich men involved in ‘calculated and cynical’ fraud which netted £800,000 from hundreds of victims

PUBLISHED: 13:04 24 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:00 25 February 2018

Picture Archant.

Picture Archant.

Two Norwich men were involved in a fraud which netted more than £800,000 from hundreds of unsuspecting timeshare owners, a court has heard.

James Andrew Barrass, 37 and Alan Frank Sharp, 65, allowed their businesses to be used to take payments from the victims of the scam more than five years ago.

Both men were sentenced on Friday for their involvement in what was described as a “calculated and cynical” fraud following a three-day hearing at Stafford Crown Court.

Mr Andrew Wheeler QC, prosecuting, said the timeshare re-sale fraud involved cold calls promising a buyer and requests for advance fees - illegal under a 2011 EC directive - and netted £835,000 in just over two years.

He said there were never any buyers, the enterprise was fraudulent from the start and all the 470 identified victims were vulnerable and elderly. Around 100 were aged in their 60s, almost 200 in their 70s and the remaining 150 aged in their 80s or 90s.

At the heart of the conspiracy was Brian Carr who - using the name Stephen Blake - initially set up offices at Cavell House in Norwich in 2012.

He arranged for Barrass to provide the card payment machine facility through his shop-front painting business, Bullwell Services, to collect the ‘fees’ paid by the victims for which Barrass took a 20 per cent cut.

When Barrass’ business lost the chip and pin card facility, Carr had then turned to Sharp to provide the same service through his furniture supply business, Pro-Bio Markets Ltd, also in Norwich.

The court heard around £80,000 was passed to Carr through Sharp’s business account and he picked up £10,000 in commission for his trouble.

Barrass, of Manby Road, Norwich, was on Friday (February 23) jailed for two years, and Sharp, of Constitution Hill, Norwich, was given eight months, suspended for a year, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Both men had admitted money laundering offences by fraudulently facilitating the control of criminal monies for Brian Carr.

Seven others were sentenced as part of the fraud, including Carr, 30, the leader of the conspiracy, from Redditch. He was jailed for a total of six years and eight months after he admitted a charge of conspiracy to defraud between January, 2012 and December, 2014.

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