Three men have been jailed for fraud following their involvement in a former Rugeley-based hot tub distribution business.
Simon Foster, aged 49, Stuart Cox, 40 and Johnathan Husselbee, 37, were sentenced at Stafford Crown Court. Foster was jailed for three-and-a-half years, Cox was sentenced to two-and-a-half years and Husselbee was jailed for two years.
The three men were convicted of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to defraud earlier this year following a three-month trial.
Hundreds of customers from across the country, and a few from mainland Europe, were affected by the actions of the three men who ran Spaserve, which went bankrupt in October 2010 owing £2.7million.
The defendants were convicted for their involvement in the fraudulent running of Spaserve, and agreeing to lie and mislead customers at the point of sale as to the origin of the hot tub and how long they would take to arrive.
This led to repeated misrepresentation by office staff, who lied about anticipated delivery dates to stop customers from cancelling their orders.
The police investigation into the activities of Spaserve – which traded under different names including The Trade Price Group – began in the late summer of 2010 as a joint inquiry with Trading Standards following numerous complaints from disgruntled customers.
Their experiences included receiving a hot tub which didn’t work or never receiving items ordered. In a substantial number of cases customers had handed over money and never received anything.
It is thought that around 2,000 hot tubs were sold to customers over three-and-a-half years (from April 2007 to October 2010), and only in the region of 1,600 were delivered.
As the investigation progressed Staffordshire Police took the lead, but before any arrests were made the business was declared bankrupt in October 2010, owing £2.7million. It was established that between them the partners took £1.2million of company funds.
Initially five people – four men and one woman – were arrested in November 2010 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. As the investigation continued one man and the woman were released from police bail without charge.
The investigation, which focused on the three men’s business activities through Spaserve, was extremely complex but Foster, Cox and Husselbee were charged in May 2012 and the case sent for trial.
More than 17,500 pages of statements and exhibits made up the case and 65 witnesses – which represented the 734 customers affected by these individuals and the business – gave evidence during the lengthy trial.
Various professionals also gave evidence about their dealings with Spaserve, including Staffordshire Trading Standards.
It was found that the business was not profitable at any stage in its existence.
DS Rob Harvey, from the force’s Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit, said:
“The conviction is to be welcomed and follows a highly complex investigation which ran over several years.”
“This case highlights that fraud is not a victimless crime. It is a criminal act, and one which is motivated by greed. These three men preyed on unsuspecting members of the public by abusing their trust and callously disregarding the impact their actions would have.”
“They did not care about the customers they were dealing with – they were purely motivated by securing hot tub sales and getting money.
“I would like to thank all those people who came forward and told us of their experiences at the hands of Spaserve.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the officers and support staff who have spent many hours working on this case over the last three-and-a-half-years.
“Our justice system relies on those appointed to conduct jury service and this trial has taken up three months of their lives. Their commitment to that justice system and the part they play cannot be underestimated.”