A businessman has been jailed after a £250,000 fraud involving council tax rebanding.

Jack Darrell Henry, 48, was behind a number of companies which offered to get customers rebates by applying to change the banding of their properties.

But Leeds Crown Court heard hundreds of people complained after no such applications were ever made or were rejected because of errors and incomplete information.

Sentencing Henry today Judge Guy Kearl QC said the conspiracy began the day after the businessman had received a suspended sentence for similar offences involving misleading commercial practises.

"You carried on regardless of that suspended sentence adopting a business as usual approach as you pursued other customers."

Henry, 48, of Marion Street, Brighouse, admitted conspiracy to defraud and concealing criminal property. He was jailed for five years one month for those offences and given nine months consecutive from the previously suspended sentence, a total of five years 10 months.

He was also disqualified from being a company director for 13 years.

Judge Kearl said Henry was in charge of operations. "It was your idea, you pursued it vigorously and relentlessly in order essentially to line your own pockets to kept the businesses going even at the expense of your staff" who he said were often "starved of their wages."

He said Henry would switch trading names when he needed to, he controlled the "purse strings" , was at the top of the ladder, and used bullying, coercion and intimidation towards some of the victims to get money.

Many of those involved were elderly, vulnerable and many described themselves now as feeling "sick and ashamed at their stupidity having been taken in and conned by your companies."

Wendy Smith, 39, of Illingworth Road, Halifax, who was convicted by a jury after trial of the conspiracy, which ran from January 26 2012 to August 31 last year, and money laundering and was jailed for two years.

The judge said she was a sales representative who had deliberately lied to some customers about the claims and was a company secretary at one point of one of the businesses.

John Boon, 59, of Spring Rise, Leeds, who was found guilty of money laundering was given a six month sentence suspended for two years. He was a book-keeper who left during the conspiracy after being owed wages.

Rebecca Brown prosecuting told the court the investigation was launched by the National Trading Standards Scambuster team after more than 1000 people complained about the businesses which mainly operated out of Fitzwilliam House in Huddersfield until they moved out owing rent.

The companies involved included Council Tax Review, CTR, Reband UK Ltd, Household Claims and Smartband.

Miss Brown said customers were either "cold-called" or given leaflets which suggested they were overpaying on council tax and were in many cases "guaranteed a rebate" when that was not the case.

A sales person would then sign up those interested with Henry's companies offering to apply to the Valuation Officer for council tax rebanding on their behalf for a fee often up to £175 with commission sought from a successful rebate.

Jack Darrell Henry
Jack Darrell Henry
 

But she told the court "for many customers no application was made or when it was made it was so lacking in quality it could not be considered by the agency."

She said the firms also indicated the company used solicitors and surveyors and inferred the process was complicated or inaccessible for homeowners to apply themselves when that was not the case.

Miss Brown said a further aspect of the case was that letters would be sent to people who had obtained rebanding often by themselves and not as a result of anything done by Henry's companies but still demanding commission.

Intimidation was then used through people calling at their homes suggesting the banding could go up again if the commission was not paid.

Many of the customers being elderly or vulnerable because of sight problems for example were distressed by threats. One was told debt collecting partners in Liverpool would be contacted "and you know they are not as polite as me," wrote Henry.

Some of the visits were by Henry himself, a physically intimidating presence, she said. One woman described hiding when she saw him outside.

The court heard on January 25, 2012 Henry appeared at Bradford Crown Court and was given the suspended sentence for 14 offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading legislation.

Jason McAdam representing Henry said he accepted responsibility as the head of the companies but "he did not embark upon this corporate enterprise for the purpose of this fraud" and there were successful rebanding for some people.

"Dishonesty crept in because all sorts of difficulties were experienced, many of which he accepts were of his making." Those included cash flow problems and staffing issues which meant "work piled up and matters descended into chaos."

"This was a case of putting it bluntly, this business being unable to cope and carrying on regardless taking people's money and promising to deliver what it plainly could not."

He said there was no suggestion of high living "of taking long holidays, buying a sports car or any luxurious lifestyle, it was to perpetuate the companies to keep them going."

Frida Hussain for Smith said she had gone to work for Henry at a time when she was vulnerable after the break-up of her marriage and became party to the deception under "very intense pressure." She played no part in threats or demands.

"She was afraid of him, he could be aggressive while charming as well." Pressures included her becoming homeless when she was owed wages by him.

Richard Reed for Boon said he had been naive and not really aware of the extent of what was going on when he started working for Henry after a couple of years unemployed. He left owed wages as well and had taken him to a tribunal winning a case against him. He expressed remorse and victim empathy.