Published: 18:11, 26 October 2018
| Updated: 18:54, 26 October 2018
A rogue trader who conned thousands of pounds out of customers buying concrete driveways has been jailed for just over three years.
Arif Choudry created fictitious staff members when he was a only a one-man band who had repeatedly fallen foul of trading standards officers.
He was the sole director of Wycombe Welding Limited, previously trading as A Drive for Life, based in Kings Hill.
Choudry, 54, was branded “a callous man with a cruel disregard for others” when he appeared for sentence yesterday.
“His treatment of his victims was unnecessarily unpleasant, threatening and aggressive over and over again,” said prosecutor Pauline Thompson.
“Once he had received his victims’ money, he simply didn’t care about the experience they had.
“Once they handed over their money to him they became trapped in combat that they did not want with a multitude of fictitious persons they believed represented a large company with a ‘legal department’ intimidating them.
“This was the structure that Arif Choudry had deliberately devised.”
Judge Charles Macdonald QC, who sentenced Choudry, of Darwin Drive, Tonbridge, to three years and two months at Maidstone Crown Court, dismissed the company’s advertising as “a pack of lies” and called him an “aggressive and overwhelming bully”.
“This isn’t corporate fraud, it is just fraud,” he said. "He is likely to go on acting in that way.”
Choudry, who has since had to leave his home in Tonbridge, because of his financial difficulties, was disqualified from being a company director for four years.
He admitted 19 offences of fraud, involving as many victims, by false representation and one of money laundering.
Choudry was found to have benefited by almost £30,000. As he had no realisable assets, a nominal confiscation order of £1 was made.
Victims included customers in Rochester, Chatham, Rainham, Maidstone, Boughton Monchelsea, Coxheath, Snodland, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood, Tunbridge Wells, Orpington, Birchington, Hawkinge, Westgate on Sea, Aldington, Herne Bay, Ashford and Sheerness.
Described as a fraud that was sophisticated and persistent, carefully planned and professionally executed, Choudry obtained contracts by making lying claims or creating false impressions.
"This isn’t corporate fraud, it is just fraud," - Judge Charles Macdonald QC
They included stating that his company had completed major works at Chessington World of Adventures and KFC, had been established for more than 25 years, when it had been incorporated in 2012, and that it was a family-run business.
In fact, Choudry was a sole trader who used various aliases in correspondence with customers to give the impression of a large company with multiple departments. He told customers his name was Al.
When victims, many of whom were elderly or vulnerable, realised they had been conned and tried to complain, they were browbeaten, abused, threatened with court action by a fictitious legal department, or just ignored.
Choudry's wife Cara, 38, denied two fraud charges and the prosecution offered no evidence against her.
Michael Haynes, defending, said the couple, who have a two-and-a-half–year-old child, were served with notice to leave their home. They had moved out and their furniture was in storage.
“He carried on trading because he said this was a legitimate business,” said Mr Haynes. “As a result of these proceedings, the company has gone under.”
Choudry had health problems, involving a spinal condition, in 2000 and the company went down then because he could not work.