Two couples have been sentenced for their roles in a series of frauds that netted more than £142,000.
Adam White, 31, and his partner Carly Pepper, 26, both of Main Road, Icklesham, together with Jason Agoston, 31, and his partner Emma Lockwood, 26, both of Piltdown Close, Hastings, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Monday (November 23), having pleaded guilty at a hearing in October.
White was sentenced to a total of five and a half years, including six months for breach of a previous suspended sentence, and for fraud by false representation against Rother District Council, and conspiracy to defraud PayPal, Sky, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer (M&S).
Pepper was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for money laundering in relation to funds obtained by White from Sky, and conspiracy to defraud PayPal.
She was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work, and four days of special community activity.
Agoston was sentenced to a total of 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for conspiracy to defraud PayPal, John Lewis and M&S.
He was also ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and to attend 10 sessions at an Addiction workshop.
Lockwood was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months for conspiracy to defraud PayPal. She was also ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.
The frauds, which totalled £142,408.19, happened in four ways.
White, assisted by Pepper, obtained more than £32,000 between September 2011 and September 2012 by buying 390 Sky multi room viewing cards, selling them via eBay and Facebook at a discounted rate of £40-45 per month, but keeping the proceeds, resulting in customers paying for a service that was intermittence or nonexistent. Of the 180 people who purchased the Sky cards, 15 contacted Sussex Police.
A court compensation order will be sought to reimburse these customers for a total of £2,405.
Meanwhile, between September 2012 and April 2013, White, Pepper, Agoston and Lockwood were involved in a fraud against PayPal where they obtained £109,371.77.
On 26 separate occasions between September 2012 and March 2013 payments of £4,900 were transferred in and out of Pepper and Lockwood’s PayPal accounts.
The incoming transfers to the PayPal accounts were then disputed as unauthorised, resulting in the banks taking back £127,400 in total from the two PayPal accounts.
In November 2013, White, using his M&S credit card, ordered from John Lewis seven Apple iMac computers and seven Apple iPads, valued together at £13,995, which were delivered to Agoston’s address. White disputed the John Lewis transaction with M&S.
Between 2010 and 2014 White claimed single person’s 25 per cent discount on council tax at his address, totalling £1,684 while he was in fact living there with Pepper. This came to light during the police investigation.
Adam White’s parents Neil White, 55, and his wife Marquita White, 53, both of Old London Road, Hastings had also been charged with an offence of money laundering £69,707.77 from the PayPal offence but the prosecution did not proceed against them as the funds were paid back to Paypal prior to the hearing date.
Detective constable Hilary Bennison, of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “This is a very good result for Sussex Police. White is a career criminal who has a proven record of committing frauds to fund his lifestyle while claiming benefits.
“Officers within the Economic Crime Unit work to bring offenders such as these to justice, and if possible strip them of their assets under the proceeds of crime legislation.
“I would like to thank our partner agencies, Rother District Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) which worked closely with us on this investigation. Together we were able to reach this successful conclusion.
“Our enquiries continue, and expert police financial investigators are preparing evidence for a court confiscation hearing on April 15 next year, under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to see if further compensation can be agreed for Sky, for the customers who purchased Sky viewing cards and for PayPal.”
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