Women and High Street phone company lost out in con, crown court hears

First published in News

Seven women were 'beguiled' by conman Ashley Potter into a mobile phone scam which involved three staff of a High Street store chain, including a man who now lives in Malmesbury, a court heard.

The women were talked into signing contracts with Phones 4U after Potter promised they would get two free phones and cash and would not have to pay a penny.

The racket at the Phones 4U store in Cheltenham cost the company £6,400 in cash and phones which were handed to the women by staff who had become embroiled in Pottery's web of deceit.

Two of the women were in relationships with Potter during the course of the scam but that did not stop him duping them as well, Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Alan Fuller said each of the women was unaware that they were signing up for phone contracts that would cost them £50 a month when they went to the shop at Potter's behest.

They left with new iPhones and Blackberries, as well as cashback of £200-300 each, but later discovered they were tied up in the contracts even though Potter had said there were no strings attached to the deal.

Potter, 29, of Blackbird Avenue, Innsworth, Gloucestershire, admitted defrauding all seven women and was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

James Tsolakis, 23, a former soldier who fought in Afghanistan, formerly of Cirencester but now of Oaksey Golf Course, Malmesbury, admitted six similar charges and was given a six-month jail term, suspended for a year, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

He had been a salesman in the Cheltenham shop who dealt with most of the women brought in by Potter and went along with the scam.

Gary Rossiter, 41, of Serin Close, Kidderminster, the shop manager, and deputy manager Dean Carter, 28, of Swindon Close, Cheltenham, each admitted one similar fraud charge.

They were each given community orders of 12 months and told to do 150 hours of work.

Judge William Hart told Potter it had been a 'mean spirited little fraud'.

He said: "These women were beguiled by you, Potter, into thinking they were getting a deal which in other circumstances they might have thought was too good to be true."

Referring to the three shop workers, the judge added: "As so often happens when there is one bad apple others become corrupted as well."

Alan Fuller, prosecuting, had told the court the women victims included Potter's then girlfriend Danielle Glencairn-Campbell. She needed to raise some money towards a holiday and he told her about the deal, which would give her two new phones and cashback.

She was served at the shop by Tsolakis, who did not give her any explanation of the terms of the deal.

"He assured her it would not cost her a penny," Mr Fuller said.

"She was given an iPhone, a Blackberry, £280 cash back and a £50 trade-in figure.

"She got £100 of the cash and both phones were given to Potter. He then gave her a further £60 from the sale of one phone and later another £40.

"When she started receiving bills, Potter became increasingly difficult to contact and the relationship clearly died."

Ms Glencairn-Campbell had introduced a friend to the scam and she fell victim to it despite being very sceptical, Mr Fuller said.

Another of Potter's later girlfriends also suffered the same treatment.

After the scam was uncovered, Tsolakis and Carter told police that it had given them a golden opportunity to boost their sales at a time when they were under pressure to meet high targets.

Rossiter accepted that he had continued to allow Potter to come to the shop even after he suspected what he was doing, He had allowed profits to rule his head, he said.

Mr Fuller said Potter had been jailed for nine months in 2008 for a fraud whcih involved deceiving a woman into helping him.

For Potter, solicitor Joe Maloney said the woman who fell victim to the scam were guilty of 'gullibility and greed'.

The women had admitted that they suspected there was something 'dodgy' or 'odd' about the deals but went along with them anyway, he said.

Potter accepted he had duped the women, Mr Maloney said, but he added: "Generally people should know you get nothing for nothing. You have to pay."

The offences happened in 2011 and Potter had not offended again since then, he said.

In fact Potter had found a job in January last year with employers who were aware of the offences and was doing well.

For Tsolakis, Nicola Berryman said he had served four years in the army including time in Afghanistan before starting work for Phones 4U. He had felt very uncomfortable about being involved in the scam, she said.

For Carter, solicitor Lloyd Jenkins said: "He got involved in the web of deceit spun by Ashley Potter. He says he turned a blind eye."

David Harris for Rossiter said that as a father of three he was petrified at the thought of going to prison because of the effect it would have on his wife and children. Rossiter has been unable to find new work since, he added.

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