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Fraudsters jailed for?37m copycat web scam

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Peter Hall and his wife Claire Hall have both been sentenced to prison
A group of fraudsters who conned UK consumers out of
"They showed no regard for the unnecessary costs they imposed on their victims - I would say they treated them with contempt."National Trading Standards said that the defendants set up copycat websites between January 2011 and November 2014 that mimicked government services such as applying for or renewing passports, visas, birth or death certificates, driving licences and tests, car tax discs and the London Congestion Charge.The group also set up sites that copied the American, Turkish, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan official visa sites where people could apply and pay for electronic visas to visit those countries.National Trading Standards said that in all cases the sites offered little or no additional value to consumers using them, adding that it is believed Indian, Turkish and US citizens have also been defrauded.It said that the "illegal profits funded a glamorous lifestyle for the defendants". At one point, Claire Hall was preparing to buy a house for ?1.4m when the authorities intervened. Mr and Mrs Hall were arrested on 27 June 2014.The National Trading Standards eCrime team and the police raided properties across Hampshire.
Mr Hall, aged 47, was sentenced to a total of 15 years following two trials which took place in July 2017 and March this year. In the first trial, His Honour Judge Sean Morris said: "Mr Hall was a highly manipulative and controlling individual and it was a determined, sophisticated long running fraud. He was a charming man but did not charm the jury. "We live in a computer age, and crime is developing to meet that age. People live by their computers and need to know that the services they purchase online are genuine services."
Peter Hall, 47, sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison. Disqualified as a company director for 10 years
Claire Hall, 41, sentenced to four years in prison
Syed Bilal Zaidi sentenced to six years in prison in his absence. Whereabouts unknown
Collette Ferrow, 50, sentenced to four years in prison
Liam Hincks pleaded guilty at July 2017 trial, sentenced to three years. He has pleaded guilty at the March 2018 trial and will be sentenced at a later date
Kerry Mills, 49, sentenced to five years. Disqualified as a company director for eight years
Mr Andrews said: "I would urge people to always use the GOV.UK website when looking to apply for any kind of government service such as a passport, driving licence or EHIC card."Search engines may seem the easiest route but searching using the GOV.UK website is the safest way of ensuring you do not fall victim to a copycat website." Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards, said: "I would urge members of the public to report any copycat websites they spot to the Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 03454 04 05 06."
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