Six men - including four from Glasgow – have been jailed for more than 30 years over a solar panels scam that defrauded 1,500 vulnerable customers out of £17 million.
Brothers David Diaz and Ludovic Black from Glasgow targeted elderly, retired and vulnerable people who were “manipulated” into buying panels on the false promise that installation costs would be invested and they would get their money back in five years.
The cashback scheme promised that their income would be reinvested by the company, Solar Energy Savings Ltd, and paid back at a later date.
Instead, the bothers defrauded their customers of an estimated £17m, triggering a four-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Insolvency Service.
The SFO prosecution set out that the men devised a scam to sell and install solar energy panels which would enable their customers to generate extra income in addition to the Government’s Feed-In Tariff.
However, in reality they manipulated their victims by using deceitful sales techniques, outright lies, and false guarantees of reimbursement to misrepresent the offer and maximise their sales, which ultimately led to victims losing between £10,000 and £20,000 each.
The trial began in April this year, when the scam’s ringleaders, Diaz and Black, were finally caught during a routine police traffic stop in Cheshire, after seven months on the run.
Both men and their co-defendants, Robert Ross, Stephen Wilson, Kenneth Reid and Niall Hastie were sentenced to a total of 30 years’ and 4 months’ imprisonment.
Wilson, of Widnes, Cheshire, and Ross, of Ayr, were each jailed for four and a half years, while Reid and Hastie, both from Glasgow, were both sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
The sentences were as follows:
Ludovic Black: 7 years and 6 months for the fraud offence and a consecutive sentence of 2 months for the bail offence.
David Diaz: 6 years and 6 months for the fraud offence and a consecutive sentence of 2 months for the bail offence.
Steve Wilson: 4 years and 6 months.
Robert Ross: 4 years and 6 months.
Niall Hastie: 3 years and 6 months.
Kenneth Reid: 3 years and 6 months.
Lisa Osofsky, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “These men built predatory schemes to steal thousands from the hard-earned savings of vulnerable people while pretending to offer them a chance to improve their own financial security.
“I’m extremely proud of the way our team worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement partners to untangle this complex and predatory fraud.”
Scott Crighton, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, added: “The tactics used by these scam artists were particularly malicious and they shamefully targeted thousands of vulnerable people to secure a vast sum of money to fund their extravagant lifestyles.
“Thanks to the joint work between the Insolvency Service, SFO and several other organisations we have been able to secure substantial sentences for these fraudsters, putting an end to their deceitful activities and protecting many more people from being conned.”