Page last updated Wednesday 31st July 2013 at 1640hrs
Ex-Detective Sergeant Christopher Taylor is a retired fraud specialist who worked in West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Group. The very same ‘elite’ detective team that housed convicted £3 million drug dealer, DC Nick McFadden (read more on this sensational case by clicking here). Taylor lives in Oxford Road, Wakefield very close to the Police Commissioner’s HQ near the city centre, and has spent the last two months on trial at Ipswich Crown Court, along with four other defendants, for money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. This follows a three year investigation by Suffolk Trading Standards, codenamed ‘Operation Troy’.
The ringleader of the fraud, Anthony ‘Toni’ Muldoon (pictured above right) is a notorious and convicted timeshare conman (read full Muldoon story here). He has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud charges and Taylor is accused of working with Muldoon in two advance fee frauds – one involving five bogus debt elimination companies and the other, 28 bogus escort agencies whose websites had names including Adorabelles, Candy Escorts, Beautiful Adults, Escortopia, Blue One, and European Escorts. The websites made claims about going racing at Ascot, overnight stays in Paris, attending lavish parties and worldwide travel including staying at five-star resorts. People were drawn to the websites by advertisements in newspapers such as the Daily Sport and Daily Star and the fraud was perpetrated when no “dates” materialised to the subscribers after the upfront fee of £595 was paid, by them, to the website operators. There are over 17,000 victims of the various advance fee scams.
It is alleged that Taylor (pictured above centre) used his company, First Debt Recovery Ltd, to launder money for these two frauds operated by Muldoon, between October 2007 and September 2010. uPSD understand that Taylor’s office premises were raided in November 2010 and computers, and other material, siezed by police and trading standards officers. The early-morning Taylor swoop was co-ordinated with other connected raids on premises in Buckinghamshire, West Sussex, Devon and Cheshire where cars, and other property, were siezed.
The call centre for First Debt Recovery was operated in Fuengirola, Spain from offices occupied by Toni Muldoon, alongside another Muldoon company First Debt Elimination. First Debt Recovery’s operations were seemingly transferred to Wakefield via Ipswich and Harley Street, London, whilst First Debt Elimination continued to be operated by Muldoon in the Los Boliches district of Fuengirola and at a subsidiary office in Alhaurin de la Torre, near Malaga. One of Taylor’s co-accused (see below) Mark Bell was involved with the formation of First Debt Recovery, according to Companies House records, where the latest Company Secretary was recorded as Kerry Hazelgrave. She was also listed as “Accounts Manager” for the firm which was dissolved in November 2012.
This is an abstract from the now defunct FDR website “Considering his previous success rate in locating absconded criminals Chris (Taylor) chose to branch out into the field of Debt Recovery and formed First Debt Recovery Ltd with a vision of helping clients to recover unpaid debts that are owed to them. To ensure that the service offered by First Debt Recovery is second to none Chris has worked tirelessly to recruit leading industry specialists, from within the Debt Recovery industry, to assist him in creating a team who are 100% committed“.
What the Crown Court trial is, apparently, not considering is any advance fee fraud perpetrated directly by Taylor in his own Wakefield debt collection business. Taylor charged his clients an upfront fee to collect debts but, according to the following reviews, failed to do so. Read those full reports here and at this link also. His First Debt Recovery business also operated without a Consumer Credit licence.
Taylor was also instrumental in setting up two other debt collection agencies on the same city centre street in Northgate, Wakefield, just a short distance from West Yorkshire Police HQ on Laburnum Road and almost alongside the current HQ of local newspaper, the Wakefield Express. The premises were leased to Taylor by Woodhead Investments, but he was not a director of either company, Baker & Bond Ltd and Baker & Bond (UK) Ltd. After a falling out with those involved in the two Baker & Bond companies, Taylor, along with another man, Ian Burrow, were seen with a team of ‘heavies’ breaking into their rented offices. Taylor was heard (by a Director of Woodheads) to announce that Ian Burrow would be running their operations from now on in place of the deposed Stuart Cooper. The local constabulary from nearby Wood Street police station were called to the incident but Taylor was able to persuade them that it was a “civil matter”.
It is known that Burrow was also instrumental in setting up the websites for the two Baker & Bond companies with a local web development firm who had also worked with Taylor in setting up the First Debt Recovery website. Baker & Bond Ltd and Baker & Bond (UK) Ltd operated as if they were a single company, both charging upfront fees of £595 to collect debts. They were each closed down by the High Court in London in January 2013. See official documentation here.
Ian Burrow also created his own debt collection agency, Goldman Vicenti which, incredibly, was based on the same Wakefield 41 Business Park as West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Group for whom Taylor previously worked. Burrow continued with the advance fee debt collection fraud by charging customers an upfront fee of £595 which was the exactly the same arrangement as the the other companies, which he ran for Taylor. This, whilst almost being overlooked by a squad of elite detectives working for the fourth largest police force in the country and whose head, DC/Supt Ingrid Lee, received a Queen’s Police Medal earlier this year.
Goldman Vicenti was also wound up by the High Court in January 2013 for charging upfront fees, failing to pass on collected debts to clients and for perpetrating a VAT fraud. Read more on that here. Although the Insolvency Service investigated the two Baker & Bond companies as well as Goldman Vicenti, getting all three wound up, they seemingly failed to recognise that Ian Burrow was linked to all three. Suffolk Trading Standards also failed to find any link between Ian Burrow and Taylor: The head of their investigations team, Stuart Hughes (assisted by Reg Ruffles), stated shortly before Court proceedings commenced that he had never heard of Burrow or Goldman Vicenti. Had Suffolk Trading Standards established the link between Taylor and Burrow they may have also noted that the two advance fee frauds (debt elimination and escort agencies run by Muldoon) match very neatly with both Taylor’s now defunct business as a debt collector and Burrow’s former business, running illicit escort agencies. Full details can be read at this link. Meanwhile, Burrow still runs two active debt collections agencies called Relentless Debt Recovery Ltd and Goldman Vicenti Recovery Ltd. He was previously Managing Director of Mercury Telecommunications Ltd (also traded as Mercury Telecom) which was unable to trade legally after an OFCOM investigation found against them in a dispute over incorrect invoicing.
At the trial at Ipswich Crown Court before HH Judge Rupert Overbury, which concluded in mid-June 2013, Taylor pleaded not guilty. He was alleged to have allowed his company bank account, First Direct Recovery Ltd, to be used to launder criminal proceeds of the fraud. CPS barrister, Nic Lobbenberg, told the jury about the connections between each of the defendants and the scam’s “controlling mind” Toni Muldoon, who has already admitted conspiracy to defraud charges.
Giving evidence Taylor said: “As a former police officer I would not have any dealings with transactions that were illegal.” He added: “The allegations are unfounded and I am aware of my responsibilities as a company director.” He was questioned on his relationship with Muldoon and claimed he had only met him “fleetingly”. He denied he had been “naive or gullible” to go into business with him. An unpublished biography called “Born to be a Costa Conman” was written by Taylor and found on his computer after police had siezed it. The subject of the book was Toni Muldoon.
When Taylor was quizzed about a £100,000 money transfer from his own business account to a foreign account he said: “There seemed no reason to query it. It seemed such an innocuous straightforward thing to do.” Later in his witness box testimony he told the jury: “I hate him (Muldoon) for what he has done to me and my family.”
Taylor’s co-defendants are Mark Bell from Ipswich, Colin Samuels of Redgrave, Norfolk, extradited from Spain Geraldine French of Lowestoft and South African national Bradley Rogers from Malaga. Bell, 41, Colin Samuels, 61 and Geraldine French, 60, were each convicted of two counts of conspiracy to defraud when the jury returned their verdicts on the three on Friday 14th June. Judge Overbury told them that jail sentences were inevitable and remanded them in custody. The jury also found Christopher Taylor, 57, and Bradley Rogers, 29, guilty of money laundering charges. They are also remanded in custody and were sentenced on July 1th 2013. Taylor was jailed for three and a half years. The Judge told Taylor “he had sacrificed his reputation and good name for money”. Efforts will now be made to seize the gang’s assets through the courts.
West Yorkshire Police have so far declined to comment as to whether Taylor’s wife – a serving officer with the Force – will be questioned over her knowledge of the scams. They also seem reluctant to tackle the other advance fee frauds in which Taylor was involved.
More to follow……