A bullying security firm boss who hired guards for projects including construction work at a Coventry hotel, and then systematically failed to pay them, has been jailed.
Crooked John Gaines, who used false names to make his business seem bigger than it was, cheated workers out of around £58,000 on contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Gaines, also known as Jeff Caines, who once boasted of living in the former home of a Leeds United star, had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to 22 charges of fraud.
But after a three-week trial, prosecuted by the Security Industry Authority, during which he defended himself after sacking his barrister, he was found guilty of all 22 offences.
And following an adjournment for reports to be prepared on him, Gaines (72) of Masters Road, Leamington, was jailed for four years and eight months and disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years.
Prosecutor James Fletcher had said that Gaines’s frauds involved contracts he had obtained to provide security guards for four construction sites between May 2012 and January 2016.
They included a Tesco distribution centre, construction work at Heathrow Terminal 2 in 2013, and the Old Hall hotel in Keresley Heath, Coventry, between December 2015 and January 2016.
Gaines also falsely claimed on business cards that his company Crown Accord Nationwide was SIA approved, when it was not.
For each project, he advertised on the internet for SIA-licensed guards – and when people applied he insisted on them starting immediately, without serving notice on any previous job.
In doing so, he took on people who were vulnerable because they were desperate for work, but repeatedly failed to pay them, or made only limited payments, coming up with a variety of excuses for withholding the money they were due.
The charges related to two guards who had worked for him at a Tesco distribution centre being built in Reading, 14 men covering the Heathrow Terminal 2 construction, two providing security during renovation work on a large house in Cheshire, and three guards at the Old Hall hotel.
When unpaid guards tried to get their money, Gaines used bullying tactics, in which he indulged in gratuitous racist abuse towards many of them, to browbeat them.
At the resumed hearing Mr Fletcher said that Gaines had defrauded 21 employees out of wages totalling £58,140 on contracts which had brought him in around £500,000.
The consequences to his many vulnerable victims had been dramatic, with one man losing his home because he could not pay the rent, and another having to sleep rough near Heathrow because he had no money to travel to and from his home.
Anne-Marie Critchley, defending at the sentencing hearing, said: “Mr Gaines has been pinning his hopes on a sentence such that he could serve it in the community.
“But, looking at the guidelines, that would represent some considerable optimism on his part.
“He says he had not realised the effect his actions had had on some of the complainants until he heard their statements. He now expresses some remorse.”
Miss Critchley argued that the sentencing category should be lower than suggested by Mr Fletcher, on the basis that ‘the greatest loss to any one individual was in the region of £5,000.’
And she contested that he should be dealt with on the basis of the fraud against each person only lasting a matter of weeks, rather than the over-all period of three-and-a-half years.
But jailing Gaines, Judge Anthony Potter told him: “The frauds were perpetrated over an almost four-year period, and they stretched from Cheshire in the north to Heathrow in the south.
“This was an exploitation of vulnerable individuals for profit. None of your staff were provided with anything approaching a proper contract or uniform or equipment.
“All of this is against the background of bank accounts you held over this period of time being credited with something just over £500,000. So you were not a man who, at this time, was short of money.
“If staff raised concerns about payment they were threatened with the sack and, in the case of those from ethnic minorities, met with racial abuse.
“This offending is in category A because of the abuse of power, the lengthy period of time over which the offences were committed, and the number of victims. In addition there is the aspect of racial abuse.
“I consider that what you express is not genuine remorse, but regret for the effect the offending has had on your life, and that as a result you are going to go to custody.”