Three Co Armagh businessmen have been handed suspended prison sentences for their role in a scam suppling bogus electricity-saving devices – described as “little more than pieces of plastic”.
All three, who traded as Electricity Saver Ireland, pleaded guilty at Newry Crown Court yesterday to conspiring to defraud customers and were sentenced to 15 months suspended for three years.
Gary John McGeown, 39, of Ivy Park, Middletown, John Paul McGeown, 32, of Cashel Road, Tassagh and Peter Doran of Seagahan Road, Collone, ran their business from Abbey Street in Armagh.
Savings of up to 25% on electricity bills were claimed to be possible and the company had compiled fictitious testimonials from non-existent ‘satisfied customers’.
The court heard how customers – farmers, bars, restaurants and nightclubs – had paid between £200 and £7,500 to have the devices supplied and fitted.
Forensic testing by the PSNI and the Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards service revealed the plastic devices did not deliver any savings.
However, the three defendants had managed to persuade potential customers that there was a “science” behind the operation of the devices.
The court heard how the defendants had been reckless in their business activities and had failed to carry out independent tests on the devices which had been manufactured in India.
The business had a turnover of £275,000 in sales between 2009 and 2013.
Richard Knipe of Trading Standards said: “The laws of physics would have to be rewritten for these devices to have worked in the manner claimed by the defendants. Probably the best way of saving money on your electricity bill still remains to be turning electrical devices off.”
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson from the PSNI’s Economic Crime Unit welcomed the sentencing. He said: “The victims in this case were the loyal customers of Electricity Saver Ireland who handed over their hard-earned money for these fake devices which claimed to reduce electricity bills by 25%. In reality, the devices were found to result in a maximum saving of 0.8% and in some cases actually used 1% more electricity when installed.”
DCI Wilson added: “As a result of the joint investigation, the fraudsters pleaded guilty to the offences last year and not only have they received suspended sentences for their crimes, they are also now subject to a Proceeds of Crime confiscation investigation aimed at recovering monies from the scam which could be used to compensate their victims.”
Anyone who believes they have been affected by this matter can contact Trading Standards for advice on 0300 123 6262.