Jailed £350,000 vitamin scam money launderers must pay compensation
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A pair of jailed money launderers who helped a gang prey on the vulnerable as part of a £350,000 vitamin scam have had almost £37,000 confiscated and must pay compensation to victims.
Fredy Fernandes and Salvador Socorro Rodrigues – both 44, and of Peterborough – were jailed for four years each in November after being found guilty of two counts of money laundering.
Now Fernandes has had £19,095 confiscated, and must pay victims £3,043.19. Rodrigues has had £17,800 confiscated and must pay victims £4,481.95.
The pair, who were the sole directors of House of Naturecare Ltd and Nutri Care Quest Ltd respectively, laundered the money for a gang in India that sold extortionately-priced bogus vitamins as part of a national scam affecting about 2,000 people.
Herts County Council’s Trading Standards brought the case against the pair after vulnerable and elderly victims were targeted in Hitchin, Welwyn Garden City, St Albans and other parts of the county – as well as further afield, in places including Merseyside, Essex, Cheshire and Devon.
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The scam involved call centres in India bombarding pensioners with phone calls to persuade them they should buy overpriced vitamins for health reasons.
One 94-year-old man was convinced omega oil tablets could help prevent lung cancer, while an 80-year-old widow was pressured into forking out nearly £400 for 14 bottles of vitamins she didn’t need or want.
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Fernandes and Rodrigues controlled the bank accounts into which the money came, and sent it on to the scammers in India. They both claimed to have been mere dupes of people there who were pulling the strings.
The Trading Standards investigation was supported by police, who executed warrants in Peterborough and uncovered numerous boxes of vitamins – some of which contained twice the lead permitted, and some of which were deficient in the declared vitamins.
Officers seized 963 invoices, for sums totalling £259,917.22. Investigation showed the scam had raked in almost £350,000.
County council community protection deputy director Guy Pratt has described Fernandes and Rodrigues as “callous criminals who were persistent and aggressive”.
He added: “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 the victims have been compensated.”
If you think you may have been targeted by a similar scam, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or actionfraud.police.uk.