Kevin Slack successfully prosecutes Wirral man for fraud and money laundering

May 1, 2018

Kevin Slack from Exchange Chambers has successfully prosecuted a 48-year-old man from the Wirral for 31 counts of fraud and 1 count of money laundering.

John Sothern posted £34,000 a year counselling jobs on the government’s official JobCentre website, inviting applicants to interviews at offices in Birkenhead, Liverpool and Manchester.

He then asked for cash for background checks. Believing that they had got a new career working with vulnerable children, applicants left their jobs, having given money to Sothern for security vetting with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

In reality there was no job, no background check and Sothern was taking the money.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said he initially ‘cold-called’ professional counsellors pretending to be from a charity and, after a basic telephone interview, offered them work in Lancashire counselling vulnerable children. This was on the proviso they paid £65 for a DBS check – which went into his personal bank account.

Sothern, passing himself off as John Parks, then advertised online for trainee counsellors in Merseyside with a fake business called Options 4 Families.

Mr Slack said: “He hoodwinked the JobCentre into believing that his entity – Options 4 Families – existed and he advertised the posts online via the JobCentre’s website.

“He even interviewed from a room at the Birkenhead JobCentre on December 13, 2013, before conducting further interviews in a rented room at the Corn Exchange Building.

“Immediately after Christmas, he conducted further interviews at a pub near the Corn Exchange, in Liverpool city centre.”

Mr Slack said: “The amounts defrauded from individual victims were small – a fee of just £65.60 was paid into the defendant’s bank account by each victim, never to be returned. But the consequences for many victims went far beyond this financial loss.

“They suffered the dashed hopes of believing they had obtained well-paid employment, only to discover that the jobs did not exist.

“Some victims left their existing employment once they accepted the defendant’s job offer, only to find that their old employer could not have them back.

“The large number of victims involved meant that the defendant was able to dishonestly obtain several thousand pounds.”

Sothern conducted further interviews in an office in Portland Street, Manchester, where police nearly caught him after a tip-off.

The owners of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange said many people arrived in January to start jobs with Options 4 Families, only to find no rooms had been rented by the company.

Sothern then resumed an earlier fraud, where he had taken money for advertising space in a non-existent magazine. Sothern purported to create a new golfing magazine, North West Tee Times.

He claimed it would have a print run in the thousands and sold advertising space to golf clubs on this basis, when he ‘knew this was untrue.’

Mr Slack added: “Even while under investigation for the frauds involving the fees for DBS checks, the defendant continued his magazine frauds – later purporting to be the publisher of a magazine called Parenting Today, with a claimed circulation of over 71,000.

“This was a blatant lie – told so that his victims would be persuaded to pay for advertising space in the magazine.”

A jury took just over three hours of deliberation to unanimously find Sothern guilty after a 14 day trial. Sothern was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. The sentencing judge described Sothern as “a professional conman through and through” who moves “from one dishonest scheme to another, without giving a moment’s thought to the damage, misery and wreckage you inflict on other people’s lives”.

Kevin Slack is a member of the criminal department at Exchange Chambers.