Fraudsters ordered to repay thousands to victims in North Yorkshire success

This story was published 31 May 2022

Two fraudsters previously jailed for their crimes have now been ordered to repay £84,000 to their victims following a successful investigation involving North Yorkshire Trading Standards experts.

Two people working on a roof

Fred Smith, 65, and Mitchell Seedhouse, 30, both of Cleese Park Traveller’s site, Walsall Road, Great Wyrley, Walsall, have today been told to repay £84,09.75 to elderly and vulnerable victims they defrauded between 2014 and 2016 following court action.

Both men were convicted at Teesside Crown Court of conspiracy to defraud in August 2018 and were sentenced to three years and five years’ imprisonment respectively.

That was for defrauding of 27 victims from North Yorkshire, East Riding, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Wolverhampton.

The prosecution and subsequent Proceeds of Crime asset confiscation proceedings were brought by Operation Gauntlet, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team hosted at our Trading Standards Service.

The Proceeds of Crime Act allows courts to order offenders to repay money they have gained from offending and allowed a judge to make today’s order, based on the results of investigations by the Operation Gauntlet team.

Cllr Derek Bastiman, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: “It has taken some time, including as a result of delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but we are delighted to finally be in a position to have secured compensation for the victims in this case.

“As the Judge said on sentencing, these defendants picked on the weak and elderly in a sophisticated, nationwide and deliberate fraud.

“We are committed to achieving justice for vulnerable victims such as those in this case, including through use of the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure monies are repaid.”

Speaking in 2018, one 85-year-old victim described the impact of the offending against him and said: “The entire encounter with Fred Smith is something I have tried to shut out as a phase in my life I want to forget.

“I was a serving Army Officer for 33 years, many of which were spent on the front line and, following my retirement, my wife and I had a few enjoyable years before she was taken ill.

“For the next 27 years I became her full-time carer, as she was unable to do things for herself and became crippled and unable to speak. She sadly died some time ago, leaving me living alone but managing very well with some outside help for cleaning, gardening and shopping, paid for by attendance allowance that I became eligible for.

“I have also recovered from two bouts of cancer. Having achieved and coped with so much in my life I feel ashamed that Fred Smith was able to undermine all this and I have surrendered to him without a fight.”