Jail for company director who fraudulently claimed thousands in commission from energy companies
The director of an energy brokering company who oversaw the creation of hundreds of false tenancy agreements that left British Gas and E.ON with hundreds of thousands of pounds of unpaid debts and bills for falsely claimed commission has been jailed.
Shah Nawaz, from Illford Essex, was sentenced to three years imprisonment at the Old Bailey today (Friday, 5 June) having previously been found guilty of Conspiracy to Defraud.
Nawaz, 38, was the sole director of Icon Marketing Limited. A City of London Police investigation launched in May 2013 revealed that over a period of several years his company contacted thousands of domestic and business gas and electricity customers urging them to change the names on the tenancy of their property as a way to avoid settling unpaid bills.
People doing this were then able to switch energy provider, for example from British Gas to E.ON, leaving the original suppliers with hundreds of thousands of pounds of outstanding customer debt while Icon earned tens of thousands in commission falsely claimed payments from suppliers.
Pretending to be customers Icon operators organised many of the changes of tenancy, with the incumbent supplier being given a mobile phone number as the point of contact for the new tenant.
But this campaign of fraud began to unravel when investigators recognised the same voice claiming to be different customers. E.ON and British Gas then brought the case to the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.
When investigators raided the Icon offices in Barking they discovered more than 100 mobile phones and hundreds of SIM cards (used and unused). Both the mobile phones and SIM cards had false tenant details written on the reverse, enabling ICON staff to purport to be the customer.
They also found 150 fraudulent passports which had been used to support the change in tenancies.
Nawaz was brought in for questioning, when he stated he was in “a cut throat business” that had involved the production of tenancy agreements and provision of mobile phones to make changes in customers energy supply from British Gas to other energy providers.
However, at a subsequent interview he backtracked on these admissions, claiming he had not properly understood the questions and that he now required an Urdu translator.
Nawaz was also disqualified as a director for four years and forfeited twenty three computers and 108 mobile phones.
Detective Constable Paul Kirk, from the City of London Police, said:
“Nawaz exploited the system in a way that he thought would provide a foolproof way for his company to earn tens of thousands of pounds in commission from one energy provider while saddling another with hundreds of thousands of pounds of unpaid debts.
“Unfortunately for Nawaz this manipulation of the energy supply market unravelled when put under the microscope by the City of London Police and fraud investigators from British Gas and E.ON, ultimately leading to him swapping a life of business for a life behind bars.”
Carol Bucknall, Senior Fraud Investigator at British Gas, said:
"Nawaz sought to profit illegally from encouraging customers to switch supplier, believing his methods would avoid our detection. But his unusual activities were identified by our Financial Crime Department, whose job it is to protect our business and our customers from the small minority of individuals who unfortunately try to manipulate the system.
This case is a great example of how a joint industry investigation can disrupt criminal activities, and should act as a warning to others that fraudulent activity to exploit the energy market will not be tolerated.”
Iain Walker, Head of SME Sales and Marketing for E.ON UK, said:
“It was important to us and our customers that we brought this case to the attention of the police and, whilst the matter is wholly regrettable, it is important that Mr Nawaz should face justice in this way. Over the last few years, and indeed since we became one of the first suppliers to refuse Icon's business due to suspicions as far back as 2012, we have put in place numerous safeguards to further protect customers. We would now hope the rest of the energy industry will support our calls for even tighter controls to be brought into force."