A man who washed 700,000 used stamps and sold them on as new as part of a £250,000 fraud operation has been jailed.
Paul Harrison, 52, and his wife Samantha, 44, were both convicted of fraud as they used the money made through stamp sales to go on holiday and buy a BMW with a personalised number plate.
Harrison was jailed for four years for adapting, supplying and possessing articles for fraud. He had admitted money laundering and another charge of supplying articles for fraud.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Harrison would buy second hand stamps, remove them from envelopes and sell them on eBay and Amazon as new. He would stick the used stamps onto grease proof paper to make them appear unused. His wife ‘turned a blind eye’ to her husband’s activities, the court heard.
His wife was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.
A third person, Graham Rought, was also involved in the operation and had previously admitted adapting, supplying and possessing articles for fraud and money laundering. Rought was involved in washing off the franking marks on the stamps so they could be used again. The former dental technician was handed an 18-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to do 85 hours unpaid work.
Rought had been involved in the fraud for two-and-half-years but Harrison had operated an account called Affordable Stamps since June 2007, the Court heard. Harrison would by stamps in kiloware – a term for packages of postage stamps sold to stamp collectors by weight rather than by quantity – which were generally used stamps on paper from mail clippings.
Police began investigating when a large number of envelopes were rejected at a sorting office in Glasgow and traced back to the Harrisons’ home. It emerged that Harrison had been involved in the sale of around 700,000 stamps that had resulted in loss to Royal Mail of £421,000. Just over £215,000 had gone into an account held by the Harrisons while Rought’s benefit had amounted to around £43,000 and he had caused a loss to the Royal Mail of £113,000.
Passing sentence, recorder Naomi Ellenbogen QC told Harrison: “It is clear to me this was a calculated business activity, the proceeds of which were your prime income. The fraud took place over a period of just short of nine years. You made considerable gain from these offences.”