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Job hunters tricked by phoney employment advertisements

A FORMER police officer was part of a nationwide £200,000 scam where job applicants were conned into paying cash for vacancies that did not exist.

Ronald Clark, who retired after 40 years with the force, and Ian Johnson placed advertisements in the press and radio, on websites and in the Jobcentre looking for workers.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard none of the jobs existed and applicants were tricked into ringing premium or high-rate telephone numbers, which generated profits for the fraudsters.

Some applicants were conned into handing over £25 for a “careers pack” which would set them up to earn cash from home but received nothing in return.

The con ran from February 2006 until February 2010 when the pair were arrested after complaints were made to police forces across the country and the scam was the subject of an investigation by the BBC and Trading Standards. The total amount of advertising the pair placed but did not pay for ran to more than £200,000.

Prosecutor Tim Gittens told the court it has been impossible to quantify how much profit the pair made in the scam but a subsequent financial investigation has shown neither have any assets.

Clark, 70, of Rowan Avenue, Harraton, Washington, was given a 34-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 100 hours’ unpaid work and £1,000 costs after admitting two fraud charges.

Judge Paul Sloan QC said he accepted Clark was not the “prime mover”.

Johnson, 38, also of Rowan Avenue, continued the scam after their initial arrest until last year, and even went on to employ workers – who he never paid – to help answer the phone lines. He was jailed for 30 months after admitting 10 fraud charges.

He told police he kept the scam going for “something to do”, not to try and generate cash for himself.

Judge Paul Sloan told them: “The reality is people who are unemployed are often desperate to find work and will clutch on to anything presented to them. This is taking advantage of that.”

Paul Cross, defending, Clark, said the former officer has never been in trouble before and had played the lesser role.

Mr Cross said: “He got into something that he found very difficult to get out of.”

He added: “He is not just a man of previous good character, for him this is totally out of character.”

James Adkin, defending Johnson, said: “He is an unusual individual for whom the prospect of custody is frankly terrifying.”

The court heard neither man has been in trouble before.
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