The directors of a “timeshare” company based at Hatton, were due to be sentenced in court today (Friday) after being found guilty of a string of fraudulent practices.
People were targeted on the phone and told they had “won” a free holiday - provided they could attend a presentation at the offices of Shakespeare Classic Line Ltd at the Nunhold Business Centre at Hatton.
Once there, unsuspecting victims were subjected to hours of high pressure selling, many only getting away after committing themselves to paying £10,000 plus maintenance fees - starting at £399 per year - in return for a week on a small yacht in Turkey.
The deception was uncovered by the county council’s Trading Standards officers following complaints from people all over the country.
The Trading Standards investigation was praised by Judge Alan Parker who said they had uncovered “something which had become a complete and utter nightmare for respectable people.”
Andrew Stephen Harris, aged 55, of Henley Road, Great Alne, Alcester, and David Keith Evans, aged 68, of Longden Road, Longden, Shrewbury, denied fraudulent trading contrary to section 993(1) of the Companies Act 2006.
But after a trial at Warwick Crown Court in Leamington both men were found guilty.
In addition Harris was found guilty of ten other Consumer Protection offences under Unfair Trading Regulations and Evans was found guilty of a further five offences.
Targeted victims were told they had won a holiday - provided they could attend a presentation in Hatton where they would find out about a new way of holidaying that had nothing to do with timeshare.
Trading Standards chief Janet Faulkner said this was a lie. There was no prize draw, the holiday offered was not free and required consumers to attend further presentations whilst on holiday.
She added: “This is a terrible case where a large number of consumers lost thousands of pounds due to the fraudulent acts of these two men and their business.”
The intensive, sometimes aggressive sales pitches were used to convince consumers that they would be making an investment by agreeing to purchase a 200th share in a yacht.
They could either holiday on the yacht every year for the next 25 years or receive an income from it by allowing Shakespeare Classic Line to rent out their week. Alternatively they could exchange the week with a holiday exchange company called Interval International.
What customers were really buying was a week a year in a cabin on a small shared yacht moored in Turkey. They paid approximately £10,000 and annual maintenance fees of £399 could increase to £3,000 per year by the end of 25 years.
Harris would then try to persuade some consumers to pay more money to upgrade to another timeshare product - apartments in Cape Verde offered on the promise of a lesser ten years commitment and a fixed management fee.