- Man sentenced to five years and ten months for fraudulent business
A man who ran a large Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check fraud has been sentenced to five years and ten months at York Crown Court today (18th December). Marcus Ashcroft-Jones pleaded guilty to charges relating to websites set up by the defendant to process DBS checks for job seekers who had been told that they had been successful in their job applications. The reality was that the advertised jobs simply didn’t exist and the DBS checks were totally unnecessary.
Mr Ashcroft-Jones, aged 35 and from Cumnor Hill, Oxford, pleaded guilty to three charges under section 9 of the Fraud Act 2006 of participating in a fraudulent business, and one charge of participating in operating a fraudulent company under section 993 of the Companies Act 2006.
Marcus Ashcroft-Jones was also sentenced to three years for money laundering (to run concurrently) and was ordered to pay £3654.85 in victim compensation and disqualified from acting as company director for ten years. The conviction was secured following an investigation by National Trading Standards.
Ashcroft-Jones also pleaded to one charge of converting criminal property contrary to section 327 (1) (c) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in that he laundered money in relation to the websites.
He operated the fraud between November 2014 and February 2016 and duped vulnerable job seekers into paying for DBS checks, previously known as a Criminal Records Bureau Checks (CRB) by advertising vacancies for genuine employers on well-known recruitment websites such as Indeed.com and Universal Jobmatch.
Officers from the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, based at City of York and North Yorkshire County Councils, began investigating the scam after over 750 jobseekers complained about the ads to both the Citizens Advice and Action Fraud helplines.
After responding to the ads with CVs, application forms and covering letters, jobseekers were contacted by individuals masquerading as a representatives of a genuine company. On some occasions they were then interviewed over the phone, or informed by email that they had been successful in securing a job in a store or office that would be opening in a few weeks.
Finally, successful candidates were told employment was conditional on applying and paying for an ‘express’ DBS check costing between £70 and £100, which would be refunded in their first pay packet.
Websites operated by Ashcroft-Jones received payments of £102,000 for what turned out to be non-existent jobs.
The fraud had a devastating effect on a large number of victims. Many had been out of work for long periods. Others gave up regular employment believing they were making a positive career move. Many were embarrassed and humiliated by the whole experience.
The defendant also recruited some of his victims to process DBS applications and to act as ‘money mules’ using their own personal or business accounts to launder the proceeds taken from other victims.
In sentencing, His Honour Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said:
“This was a sophisticated internet based fraud; it was targeted at the needy. There was a tissue of lies and there were no jobs. It cost the victims their benefits and their self-esteem.”
You took everything your victims had and there were a large number of victims. It was obvious this was not the limit of your fraudulent intentions. It was only stopped by the disruption of the investigation.”
The judge also commended the work of the National Trading Standards eCrime team in bringing this defendant to justice.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
“This was a cruel fraud that saw Mr Ashcroft-Jones target people who were looking to improve their career opportunities. When committing this crime he was fully aware of the hardship he would inflict on his victims, particularly those who were long-term unemployed. I am pleased that the work of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team has seen him brought to justice.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned that they may be paying excessive amounts for up job checks, such as DBS checks, to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Cllr Ann Reid, interim executive member for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said:
“Our tireless investigators have helped end another online scam as part of their work to protect consumers and to help defend the integrity of honestly operated websites. I congratulate the team on this result.”
Andrew Lee of North Yorkshire County Council said:
“Full credit should go to our investigators for uncovering how this fraud worked, and how this defendant tried to hide his money. This has been a long and hard case to investigate. Many jobseekers have suffered financial loss at the hands of this man and thankfully no more will be conned by him.”