POOL & SPA SCENE EXCLUSIVE
The main player in a fraudulent home hot tub firm which went under with debts of £2.7 million has been ordered to cough up just £10.
Hundreds of customers across the country were cheated by Staffordshire-based Spaserve with faulty goods or hot tubs that never arrived.
A jury at Stafford crown court found three of its bosses guilty of fraudulent trading and last month they were given jail sentences totalling eight years. Spaserve’s principal shareholder Simon Foster, together with Stuart Cox, a partner in the business and office manager Johnathan Husselbee were all convicted by a jury following the three-month trial.
Simon Foster appeared back before the court for an uncontested Proceeds of Crime hearing. Mr Nick Burn, prosecuting, said it had been agreed that Foster’s personal benefit from the crime was £800,000 and he should pay back £10 immediately.
The court heard, however, that Foster had already been declared bankrupt and the official receiver has first claim on his assets.
Foster spearheaded the fraud on customers while living a ‘millionaire’s lifestyle’. The jury heard he had three Porsches on the drive of his luxury home at The Green in Milford, near Stafford, took expensive holidays, sent his children to private school and had a box at Birmingham City football club.
Spaserve, whose premises were in Rugeley, Staffordshire, had a website offering hot tubs at a trade prices. Pool and Spa Scene helped blow the whistle on Spaserve. A salesperson would visit anyone who responded and customers who signed up had to pay for their tub up front, long before any delivery.
That money was to pay for the hot tubs ordered from the Chinese supplier and there should have been enough. In its three years or so of trading, Spaserve received £6.5 million pounds worth of business.
The fraud was brought down by an action group of dissatisfied customers and subsequent investigations by trading standards and Staffordshire Police.
Judge Amjad Nawaz told the court: “This was a wholly dishonest venture – the business never was effectively trading solvent, it was only a matter of time before the balloon went up and anyone dealing with Spaserve would lose their money.
“Whilst others were losing out, there was an element of self-enrichment – [the defendants] were still getting their money.”
Foster, aged 49, was jailed for three and a half years; Stuart Cox, aged 40, got 30 months and general manager Johnathan Husselbee, aged 37, was given two years. All had all denied fraudulent trading and conspiracy to defraud.
Recorder Ms Abigail Nixon ruled Foster had benefited by £800,000 and gave him seven days to pay £10 or face a further week in jail.
Commenting on the sentences, Issy Rickards Sanger, president of the BSPF said: “I’m reassured that the jury found the men guilty, but I am both shocked and disappointed with the sentencing – it is not a big enough deterrent. These men have been a disgrace to our industry and I know how many reputable hot tub companies have been concerned about these corrupt retailers.
“It is vital that as an industry we continue to work together with the relevant authorities, BISHTA and the consumers to all pull together to ensure that we do not ever have to face such an issue happening again. We do not want to be tarred with the same brush as those convicted.”