Press release

Three sentenced following CMA prosecution of multi-million pound pyramid promotional scheme

Following a CMA investigation and prosecution 3 individuals appeared before Bristol Crown Court for sentencing today.

Pyramid of money

Susan Crane, Mary Nash and Hazel Cameron, who had earlier pleaded guilty to the offences of promoting and operating a pyramid promotional scheme, were today sentenced.

Susan Crane and Mary Nash were sentenced to 6 months’ immediate imprisonment and Hazel Cameron was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment suspended for 2 years.

Stephen Blake, CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) Senior Director of Cartels and Criminal Enforcement, said:

These individuals were active members of the committee that orchestrated this illegal scheme, which affected large numbers of people in the South West of England and Wales, the vast majority of whom lost their money.

Today’s sentences should act as a warning to anyone thinking of operating such a scheme. In addition to the prosecution, the CMA is also bringing confiscation proceedings to ensure that those who have been convicted for their involvement in this scheme do not benefit financially from their criminality.

The public should remain vigilant in respect of such pyramid promotional schemes, remembering that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

This pyramid scheme scammed a huge number of people, most of whom have lost large amounts of their money. That’s why I am so pleased that these criminals have been convicted following the investigation by Scambusters.

We urge members of the public to steer clear of these scams – if you are in any doubt whatsoever then do not get involved.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. From 1 April 2014 it took over the functions of the Competition Commission and the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.

  2. Pyramid promotional schemes are those where the ‘compensation’ (that is, money) for participants is derived primarily from introducing others, rather than from the sale of a product or service. Such schemes are automatically unfair commercial practices under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. They are distinct from promotional arrangements under which compensation payments are derived from the sale of a product or service. Unlawful pyramid promotional schemes may involve products or services but these will generally be overpriced and have no real resale value, the primary source of the compensation for participants being derived from introducing others to the scheme.

  3. Three women were found guilty in July 2012 of ‘promoting’ and ‘operating’ a pyramid promotional scheme under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Each was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment in February 2013. These sentences have been served. They were:
    • Laura Fox – Chairman of G&T
    • Jennifer Smith-Hayes – Treasurer of G&T
    • Carol Chalmers – Venue Organiser
  4. Pleading guilty to ‘promoting’ and ‘operating’ a pyramid promotional scheme under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, were:
    • Mary Nash – Charts Coordinator of G&T
    • Susan Crane – Committee Secretary and Sub Treasurer of G&T
    • Hazel Cameron – Games Coordinator for G&T
  5. Pleading guilty to ‘promoting’ a pyramid promotional scheme under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, were non-committee members: Sally Phillips, Jane Smith and Rita Lomas.
    • Sally Phillips was sentenced in November 2012 to 3 months’ imprisonment suspended for 2 years with a 3 month curfew.
    • Jane Smith was sentenced in April 2013 to 4 and a half months’ imprisonment suspended for 2 years.
    • Rita Lomas was sentenced in May 2013 to 4 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 2 years.
  6. Acquitted by a jury of ‘operating’ and ‘promoting’ a pyramid promotional scheme under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 was non-committee member:
    • Rhalina Yuill
  7. Following 2 trials at which separate juries each failed to reach a verdict, no evidence was offered in relation to charges of both ‘operating’ and ‘promoting’ a pyramid promotional scheme under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in respect of a further non-committee member, who was therefore acquitted:
    • Tracy Laurence
  8. Confiscation proceedings against those convicted for their involvement in the scheme are being brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. These are due to be heard at Bristol Crown Court between March and June 2015.

  9. The prosecutions followed an investigation by the OFT with the assistance of Scambusters, which led the investigation in respect of Rita Lomas and Jane Smith.

  10. Scambusters targets rogue trading and scams across England and Wales, supporting all local authority areas in England and Wales. There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.

  11. The CMA has today published Pyramid selling: advice for the public and communities. This was developed with Action Fraud, Citizens Advice and the National Trading Standards Scambuster Teams. It aims to provide quick advice on how to spot a pyramid scheme, avoid the risks of participating and report one.

  12. Any members of the public who think they have identified a dodgy pyramid scheme or been a victim of an illegal pyramid promotional scheme should report it to Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040. For help getting their money back, victims or groups of victims should consult a lawyer or other legal representative, including those at Citizens Advice.

  13. Enquiries should be directed to Siobhan Allen or by ringing 020 3738 6798 or 020 3738 6460.

  14. For CMA updates follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn. For case updates sign up to our daily email alerts.
Published 13 October 2014