Businessmen guilty of conning dozens of Norfolk and Suffolk firms and schools

The boss of a firm with a multi million pound turnover has been found guilty of conning businesses and schools in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Christopher Boughton-Fox, 48, the chairman of Great Yarmouth-based Business Telecom Ltd had denied conspiring to defraud businesses and individuals of more than �100,000 between 2003 and 2008 but was found guilty by a 10 to two majority verdict after a 10-week trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

Also before the court was Jonathan Parish, 42, of The Hills, Reedham who denied the same charge and was found guilty on Monday.

Boughton-Fox of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe-St-Andrew and Parish will be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on April 27 along with another employee Neil Debenham, 28, of East Somerton, Norfolk, who admitted the same charge at an earlier hearing.

Adjourning sentence on Boughton-Fox today Judge Peter Thompson warned him that he could be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

A fourth defendant Daniel Cullen, 28, of Hatfield, Herts is due to be sentenced today at St Albans' Crown Court for his part in the fraud.

During the trial of Boughton-Fox and Parish it was claimed that smooth-talking sales reps from Business Telecom Ltd lied to customers as they tied them into long running contracts to secure lucrative commissions.

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The court hearing heard how businesses, schools and charities in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex were conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds in the high-pressure telecoms scam.

The smooth-talking sales reps lied to customers as they tied them into long-running contracts to secure lucrative commissions.

The business was so successful that at one stage it had a turnover of �4.5m and while company boss Christopher Boughton-Fox had a salary of �600,000, sales manager Jonathan Parish could earn up to �40,000 in 'a good month', the court heard.

In launching the case, David Wilson, prosecuting, alleged that during cold calls to potential customers, staff claimed they represented British Telecom and that Business Telecom was the 'business side' of British Telecom.

'We say that was a device operated to open doors to get a degree of trust from a long-established business,' said Mr Wilson.

Customers were allegedly told they could cancel deals after one year but found themselves committed to unwanted and expensive terms for seven years.

The court heard Boughton-Fox built Business Telecom Ltd up from a one-man band at his home in Norwich into a successful company operating from offices in King Street, Great Yarmouth, with a staff of around 36 at its peak.

Mr Wilson alleged that staff made a number of untrue claims about the company's leases and products including saying that customers needed new phones to work on a digital system, that their costs would be covered by rebates from Business Telecom Ltd and that new leases would replace existing ones, when in fact they were running at the same time so people were paying twice for the same service.

He claimed that the total value of leases sold by fraudulent misrepresentation was more than �1m.

For more on this story, including a chat with trading standards involved in the case and some of the victim's stories see tomorrow's paper.

Were you a victim of the group's con? Contat David Bale on 01603 772427 or email