Wyvern Media boss Jonathan Rivers jailed for 'callous' scam
The man behind a "callous" cold-call scam which defrauded hundreds of people and resulted in an annual turnover of £7m has been jailed.
Jonathan Rivers was head of Derby-based Wyvern Media group, which pressured firms into buying worthless adverts.
Nottingham Crown Court heard he admitted fraudulent trading after more than 500 complaints were lodged.
He was jailed for six years. Four other members of staff were jailed, with a further five given suspended sentences.
The court heard the company had 12 offices throughout the Midlands and south-west of England and at one point employed 250 people.
Rivers, 55, of Coleshill, Warwickshire, was described by Judge Stuart Rafferty as the "head, heart and soul" of the company, which had about 18,000 customers per year and an estimated annual turnover of £7m.
Trading standards officers found small firms were targeted by Wyvern with high-pressure sales techniques and multiple calls.
Once paid for, the adverts would only appear in low circulation publications put out by the media company itself.
Businesses were sometimes billed for unsolicited extra adverts.
The highest amount lost by one firm was £31,305.
Mark Hughes, from Nottinghamshire Trading Standards, said: "You would see what we call 'feeding frenzies', where they would pass details of a company around the group which would then be targeted for more advertising.
"This group were quite callous if someone made a complaint - they would threaten those individuals with legal action and, indeed, would take individuals to county court to recover the money they thought they were owed."
One victim was Jutta Patterson, whose animal rescue centre lost more than £5,000 and almost closed.
She died of cancer in 2015.
Her husband Terry said: "She couldn't sleep at night, she started smoking more and didn't eat properly... I think it affected her a lot."
- Rivers was jailed for six years and banned from being a director for 10 years
- Jagjeet Basra, 39, of Dewsbury Avenue, Tyvechale, Coventry, who admitted one count of fraudulent trading, received a 40-month sentence with a six-year ban on being a director
- Andrew Simpson, 44, of Fieldgate Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, admitted one count of fraudulent trading. He received a 38-month sentence with a six-year ban on being a director
- Dennis Draper, 44, of Denton Close, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, admitted one charge of fraudulent trading. He received a 20-month sentence with a three-year ban on being a director
- Matthew Walker, 28, of Avenue Road, Leamington Spa, admitted two counts of fraudulent trading. He received a 16-month sentence with a three-year ban on being a director
- Joanne Soen, 35, of Farm Crescent, Slough, admitted one count of fraudulent trading. She received a two-year sentence suspended for two years and a five-year ban on being a director
- Thomas Chamberlain, 31, of Upper Eastern Green Lane, Coventry, admitted two counts of fraudulent trading. He received a two-year sentence suspended for two years with a five-year ban on being a director
- Sarah Taylor, 30, of Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, admitted two counts of fraud by false representation. She received a six-month sentence suspended for two years
- Neisha Padan, 31, of Ferrers Close, Coventry, admitted one count of false accounting,. She received a six-month sentence suspended for two years
- Ricky Lal, 30. of Stidfall Grove, Sydenham, Leamington Spa, admitted one count of fraud by false representation and received a three-month sentence suspended for 12 months