A BROMSGROVE man has been jailed for his part in running a computer repair scam across England and Wales.
Yassar Rashid, 39 of Bromsgrove, received 18 months imprisonment, whilst his brother, Amir Rashid, 33 from Hall Green, was sentenced to three years at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (October 6).
The sentences follow a lengthy investigation led by the National Trading Standards Central England Regional Investigations Team.
The pair had both pleaded guilty on September 4 to a conspiracy to defraud by false representation, contrary to Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
The brothers conspired together to place adverts in the Yellow Pages and Thomson Local for hundreds of apparently different computer repair businesses across England and Wales.
These adverts were typically under different trading names such as ‘Matt’s Computers’, ‘Adam’s Computers’ or ‘Computer Repairs Cheltenham’, would include a telephone number local to the area in which the advert was to be seen, and often also included a partial local address to give an impression that there was a physical shop in the locality.
People called the business believing in all cases that the firm was local to them.
The firm would always send an ‘engineer’ out to the consumer’s home, and in the vast majority of cases this ‘engineer’ would take the computer away.
Once out of the consumer’s possession the brothers would engage on a policy of using what they admit to being a ‘dishonest pricing structure’, to false representations being used to describe parts installed to computers and to the use and installation of improperly licensed software.
Victims complained about the firm not returning computers, about high charges being made and about apparently pirate software being installed.
Many of them tried to find the business at the address advertised but found the address to be false.
Victims reported feeling that their computers and laptops were ‘being held to ransom’ by the firm until the fees demanded were paid.
Consumers from as far afield as North Wales, Leeds, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northampton, Bedfordshire, Wisbech, Essex and London all reported similar complaints about what appeared to be separate businesses, but all complaints ultimately led to the dishonest enterprise run by the Rashid brothers.
In sentencing, HHJ Henderson said that deliberately dishonest methods were used to frustrate consumers who were vulnerable because of an inequality of positions between them and the business.
He added that he considered both brothers to have a high culpability in the case.
He praised the prosecution team, adding that the offending was discovered by a ‘proper investigation’ and continued that he was impressed by the complexity and organisation of the prosecution in the case.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “These criminals took advantage of people who were simply looking for a solution to their computer problems.
“Their criminal actions left consumers out of pocket and with computers that in many cases had illegal software installed.
“I hope this conviction and sentence sends a message that National Trading Standards will not hesitate to bring to justice criminals who defraud consumers.”
If you suspect you or someone you know is being defrauded then please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06.