Gang conned elderly victims out of £425,000
A gang of cold call conmen who dubbed themselves "The Wolves of Wind Street" to trick trusting pensioners out of £425,000, were today (April 15) jailed.
The four conmen named themselves after hit Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio in their cold call scam operation.
But instead of targeting of wealthy investors like the film, they conned 1,200 elderly people out of their cash - calling them: "Pension rich suckers."
The four spent their cash wining and dining on Swansea's Wind Street.
Kyle Lewis, 30, Darren Palmer, 42, David Alford, 33, and Jason Cunliff, 42, ran the huge telemarketing scam out of an office.
A judge told them: "You were to self-style yourselves as the Wolves of Wind Street. You were living the life and you couldn't stop it."
Prosecutor Lee Reynolds said: "This business targeted elderly consumers in what can be described as an audacious and calculated fraud."
They hired staff to promise "free" boilers under a "Government scheme" and charged an upfront fee of £299 or £399.
But only three elderly customers received boilers out of 1,200 people who paid up.
Mr Reynolds said: "There were no Government schemes that would enable people who were not on benefits to have free boilers."
A court heard those three customers still did not get their boiler free of charge as they were signed up for monthly payments lasting 12 years.
Mr Reynolds said: "The three consumers will be paying back well into their 90s for the three boilers that were installed."
Lewis, Palmer and Alford were directors of Renewable Energies Centre Ltd and REC Home Audits and ran it for just five months.
Cunliff was hired as a compliance manager just six weeks before they were arrested - to give the business "an air of respect."
The gang would lavish their staff with free drinks in pubs and clubs based on Wind Street in Swansea city centre.
The court heard the gang led a "champagne lifestyle" and also spent the cash on "flash cars" and "living the high life."
Text messages between them showed them calling their victims "pension rich suckers" and bragging about making TV appearances on "Watchdog, The Ferret and Rogue Traders."
They also bragged about being "photogenic and awesome in court."
An investigation was sparked by Swansea Trading Standards following a string of complaints.
The cold call fraud comes after Swansea was dubbed “the nuisance call capital of the UK” by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2016.
Swansea Crown Court heard officers raided the office and seized damming CCTV footage and thousands of phone recordings.
In one CCTV clip, a staff member said: “She thinks I’m going to speak to a director now, to guarantee the funding.
"She wants the work done September, October. I said the fund will be gone by then.
"So what I’m going to do is ‘speak to a director’, which I’m not. You are milking them, bullshitting them.”
The court heard victims were repeatedly reassured the funding scheme was run by the Government.
But in reality they needed to be on benefits to qualify for a free boiler.
When customers tried to delay making a decision callers piled on pressure by claiming they would miss out if they waited.
The company raked in up to £5,000 a day - with a total amount gained of £425,000.
Now the gang has been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
One victim, Sonja Owen from Rhymney, paid £299 and only got a survey of her house.
She said: "I hope that they get sentenced and their assets taken off them, and they should be made to pay everybody back.
"Not only us, but everybody they've scammed."
The four were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud between February and July 2015.
Lewis, of Port Talbot, Palmer, of Morriston, and Alford, of Ynystawe, were jailed for three years and nine months.
They were banned from being directors of a company for ten years.
Cunliff, of Morriston, was jailed for 18 months and banned from being a director for five years.
Judge Geraint Walters said: "The calls which the court heard from the sales teams at REC were almost invariably cringe worthy.
"It was the directors that had chosen the staff to work there and you chose well if what you were looking for were a sales team who seemingly lacked intellect and were prepared to lie as if that were the most natural thing in the world."
The court heard one staff member called a Welsh Assembly member responsible for energy saving schemes.
But when the worker said the scheme did not exist - the cold caller just hung up the phone.
The court heard one victim, who had an adult son with disabilities, was duped into joining the scheme.
Judge Walters said: "The caller couldn't conceal his delight that he managed to dupe that lady. You certainly chose your staff well."
Judge Walters said the three directors spent their money "living the high life," socialising, partying and taking drugs.
He said: "Once you realised how easy it was to rake in the money there was no incentive to stop it and you allowed it to carry on day by day duping more people."
Judge Walters added: "If it wasn't so sad, I wouldn't mention it.
"So taken were you by the success of this business financially that you were to self-style yourselves as the Wolves of Wind Street in reference to the clubbing scene in this city.
"You were living the life and you couldn't stop it."