TWO rogue traders who ran a solar energy company in Basingstoke have been jailed for defrauding their victims out of £200,000.
Simon David Gibson, 37, of King’s Road, South Ham, Basingstoke, and Mark Haire, 25, of no fixed abode, were sentenced last Friday at Wincehster Crown Court, to four years in prison each after conning residents in Hampshire and the South of England.
The pair were caught after a customer in Tadley contacted Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.
An investigation was launched into Gibson and Haire’s solar panel installation company, Eclipse Solar Systems Ltd, with the assistance of police and support from the Tri-Region Scambusters Team.
They uncovered a series of scams, including fake discounts and bogus ‘prize cheques’ which were offered in exchange for cash.
Using the business, which has now been dissolved, as a veil to cover their fraud, Gibson and Haire used cold calls, pressure selling and confidence trickery to take money from their victims, who were left without their promised installations, and in some cases were sent into debt after cheques from the company failed to clear.
One victim from Hampshire, who does not want to be identified, said: “The whole episode has left me with a hollow feeling of being abused and violated, almost as though my house has been burgled.
“Unfortunately not everyone in society can be trusted and there are individuals such as this pair with very limited moral standards. If there is anything positive to be taken out of the event, it is that I shall be more careful and sceptical in the future.”
Gibson, who was managing director of Eclipse Solar Systems Ltd, pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to 26 counts of fraud, and one of obtaining services dishonestly.
The total losses caused by his actions were in excess of £200,000 which included from elderly and vulnerable victims.
Sentencing Gibson, Judge Miller QC, described the scale of his fraud as “breathtaking.”
Self-titled sales director Haire pleaded not guilty to the 16 charges against him.
Following a three-week trial that began on September 9, at Winchester Crown Court, a jury took 10 hours and 45 minutes to find him guilty of 10 counts of committing fraud by false representation.
The court heard he had a number of previous convictions for dishonesty.
Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council and executive member for policy and resources, thanked the members of the public who were “brave enough to come forward.”
He added: “If their criminal activity remained undetected they could still be draining the bank accounts of those who are least able to protect themselves.”
Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB), added: “I am pleased to see yet another successful outcome from one of NTSB’s Scambusters teams and its regional partners. Their continued effort to investigate businesses is one step forward in protecting vulnerable communities. These efforts also protect legitimate businesses while preventing consumers from incurring unnecessary debt.”
Anyone concerned about a trader can contact the council’s Quick Response Team on 01962 833666 or visit Trading Standards Services at www3.hants.gov.uk/tradingstandars.htm.