Vitamin scammers have £36,895 confiscated and are ordered to pay compensation to victims

Published: 05 Apr 2018


Following a successful prosecution by Hertfordshire Trading Standards, two men who preyed on vulnerable and elderly people, were sentenced to a total of eight years in prison in November last year for their part in a £350,000 fraud. A confiscation hearing that took place on the 28th March, has resulted in £36,895 worth of assets being restrained under the Proceeds of Crime Act and between them being ordered to pay victims over £7,500 in compensation.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards brought the case against Fredy Fernandes (aged 44) and Salvador Socorro Rodrigues (aged 44) from Peterborough, who were the sole directors of the companies ‘House of Naturecare Limited’ and ‘Nutri Care Quest Limited’.

The men sold extortionately priced vitamins, raiding the wallets of residents with particular health fears. The national scam affected around 2,000 people and both men were each found guilty of two counts of money laundering at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday 7 November. Each were sentenced to four years in prison. Fernandes had £19,095 confiscated and was ordered to pay victims £3,043.19. Rodrigues had £17,800 confiscated and was ordered to pay victims £4,481.95.

The court heard that through the activity of these two businesses, elderly and vulnerable residents throughout Hertfordshire and the rest of the UK were targeted – including those who lived in Welwyn Garden City, Hitchin, Ware, Bushey, Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead – as well as further afield, including Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, Essex, Suffolk, Cheshire and Devon TH played on their health fears in order to raid their wallets

Fernandes and Rodrigues were part of the scam which involved call-centres based in India bombarding pensioners with phone calls to persuade them that they should buy overpriced vitamins for health reasons. One 94-year-old man was convinced that omega oil tablets could help prevent lung cancer and an 80-year-old widow was pressured into buying 14 bottles of vitamins for nearly £400 that she didn’t need or want.

The Trading Standards’ investigation was supported by officers from the City of London Police, who executed search warrants in Peterborough. The searches revealed numerous boxes of vitamins, with some of the products containing twice the amount of lead permitted and others deficient in declared vitamins. Officers also seized 963 invoices, totalling £256,917.22 and further investigation revealed that the company accounts held nearly £350,000 of money made from this fraudulent activity.

In mitigation it was noted that they were both of previous good character, family men and had worked hard since coming to the UK.

Guy Pratt, Deputy Director of Community Protection at Hertfordshire County Council, said:

“Officers from the Hertfordshire Trading Standards team have worked tirelessly to bring a successful prosecution against these callous criminals who were persistent and aggressive. The successful confiscation of these assets is testament to some thorough financial investigation by the officers in the case and we are pleased that some of their victims have been compensated.”

“We want to warn Hertfordshire residents and others across the UK about scams similar to this that we believe are still ongoing. If you are cold called by someone trying to sell you a product that you do not need, want or do not know the detail of please hang up the phone. If a caller uses high pressure techniques, the likelihood is they are trying to con you – so please don’t engage with them. If you have received any cold calls about vitamins or other products and have been victim to this type of activity please report it to Action Fraud.”

Action Fraud can be contacted on 0300 123 2040 or via the website: www.actionfraud.police.uk

For advice on scams please contact Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06.

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