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Three men face jail over plot to scam B&Q

Three Merseyside men who plotted to scam a homeware chain out of tens of thousands of pounds face “hefty” prison sentences, a judge warned.

For five years, Anthony Grainger, Gavin Phillips and Paul Hughes targeted B&Q stores in England, Scotland and Wales to claim refunds on products which had been stolen from other stores.

They would exploit a loophole in the system where they would be handed credit slips for the stolen items which were then put towards buying more expensive items. The men could then get a full refund for the higher-priced item.

Preston Crown Court heard how stock to the value of £43,499 was stolen from B&Q stores between March, 2005, and March, 2010.

Hughes, 43, Grainger and Phillips, both 34, entered guilty pleas to a conspiracy to steal charge on the first day of a scheduled trial.

Judge Pamela Badley adjourned sentence until September 21 for probation reports to be written.

But she told the defendants to expect jail.

She said: “It is a serious matter and it is going to be a custodial sentence.”

The court heard how Grainger, of Wheat Hill Road, Huyton, and Phillips, of Westfield Avenue, Knotty Ash, were found by investigating police to have “unexplained” deposits of cash in their bank accounts.

They yesterday pleaded respectively to having criminal gains – approximately £100,000 in Phillips’ case and £132,800 in Grainger’s case – in Lloyds TSB bank accounts, a charge termed “converting criminal property”.

Phillips also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving on December 3, 2008, after hitting a B&Q store guard after making off with goods from a warehouse in Blackpool.

The court heard how the worker was hit by the bonnet of the car and sustained injuries to his hand.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said Hughes, of Rampit Close, Haydock, was “more of an operative than a guiding hand” in the conspiracy.

He was seen four times on CCTV with Grainger and Phillips and was a named driver on the car insured by Phillips that was used in the conspiracy.

All three men were granted unconditional bail ahead of sentencing.

Phillips was handed an interim disqualification from driving by Judge Badley.

Source : John Siddle - Liverpool Echo
www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/08/14/three-men-facing-jail-over-plot-to-scam-b-q-out-of-thousands-of-pounds-100252-31616934/

14 August 2012
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