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12 Consumer News

The man in question

Self-publishers beware of this man: he’s ripped off authors and printers alike to the tune or thousands of pounds

Last summer Neill Stuart Malcolm John was banned by the Insolvency Service from being a director of a company after he ran a string of bogus online printing companies that ripped off self-publishers.

Scores of wannabe authors and dozens of printing firms were left out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds over a period of three years before the business man was brought to book.

Based in his home in Cardiff the one-time salesman together with his then partner Clair Hunnisett took money up front from the public to print their books, magazines and pamphlets through a series of websites. They had names like The Book Printer, The Printing House and the Magazine Printer – with some names the same as legitimate companies. However, neither of the pair owned a printing press but instead farmed the work out to various print firms. Some customers received the books but the majority either received none or only a partial number printed incorrectly. When they attempted to get refunds, they were met with hostility and legal threats. Printers who had taken on the work on trust also failed to get paid.

I spent a considerable amount of time highlighting their activities in the trade press as a journalist for Print Monthly Magazine as well as contacting the Insolvency Service, Trading Standards and Action Fraud with evidence. Every day victims contacted me with their stories and these I passed on to the authorities. Printing companies in Hungary, Turkey, Latvia and the UK had been caught out – some to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. Eventually the Insolvency Service and the Official Receiver took action.

An internet search could have flagged up potential problems with various complaints and news stories about the couple. But there was a problem as the duo ran many websites and John changed his name on numerous occasions so as not to be linked to all of the trading names of his companies.

If a potential customer had used CreditCheckCo for the sum of £3.85 they would have been enlightened about the activities of John (and his various companies) who incidentally now calls himself Neill St John.

Despite the ban by the Insolvency Service John set up more online print firms but those were closed down last September, but my information is he’s still active – so you’ve been warned. If in doubt of using a company in which you plan to pay large amounts of money do check them out first at https://thecreditcheckco.co.uk/ and save yourself a lot of heartache, stress and cash.

For more news, views and features on consumer issues and business visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow Harry on FaceBook, Twitter as @harrythespiv, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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I lost my £500 deposit when the kitchen company went bust

If only they’d used Credicheckco – then they would have spotted the rogue trader

A few years ago, I put a deposit for a new kitchen with a local kitchen company who went bust after I had placed my order along with a deposit of £500. I never did get my kitchen and as for the deposit – you guessed it – that was lost. If I’d had the services of Creditcheckco then I would have discovered that Really Easy Peasy Kitchens (or some such name) had directors who had a history of a long list of insolvencies and dodgy companies behind them.

It seems a thing with kitchen companies as a quick look on the internet and up pop various kitchen nightmare stories. Like this one as reported by consumer champion Anna Tims in The Guardian. She reported on a story about a householder from Hull known only as GR who lost £8,000 with a firm called Mabola Kitchens.

The story is a veil of tears as first of all GR stumped up a 10% deposit – before being asked for a further a further £7,000 in cash before the order could be placed. If GR had known that Mobala of Hull was a failing franchise of Early Nights Limited that had already ceased trading then he or she would never have placed the order let alone paid up £8,000 in cash. For a quick search on the Creditcheckco website for £3.85 not only thousands of pounds would have been saved – but they wouldn’t have suffered all the stress and heartache.

Last year The Daily Record reported on Carol Ann Liddle from Scotland who paid a £4,000 deposit to a firm trading as Luxury Kitchens. Several months later after a string of false promises she still hadn’t received her kitchen and demanded her money back. The newspaper published the story and then received similar stories from other customers of the firm with deposits paid but not returned and kitchens that never appeared. A simple search with Creditcheckco for £3.85 would have revealed that Campbell Kane of Stirling – the man behind the operation – was known to trading standards. Luxury Kitchens was a trading name of Luxury One Limited while Mr Kane also traded as CAM Living which was a trading name for LKD Limited.

In the Daily Telegraph consumer journalist Jessica Gorst-Williams heard from PF somewhere in the South West of England about the trials of ordering a kitchen worktop from an unnamed firm. The company persuaded PF to part with £954 as a deposit. You guessed it the kitchen company went bust and the money was lost.

It makes me think that back in the 1990s losing £500 wasn’t so terrible – although with a £3.85 search with Creditcheckco I wouldn’t have lost a penny as I’d have sussed out the cowboy outfit and gone elsewhere.

Picture Caption: Last year The Daily Record reported on Carol Ann Liddle from Scotland who paid a £4,000 deposit to a firm trading as Luxury Kitchens

For more on how to check out companies to save yourself heartache visit https://thecreditcheckco.co.uk/

For more from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Year closes on rogue businessman who went on trading after ban by Insolvency Service

The year 2019 has closed on a sorry chapter of dishonest trading by the business man Neill Stuart Malcolm John whose firms were wound up by the Insolvency Service.

John, along with his then partner Clair Hunnisett, became known as the Bonnie and Clyde of the print industry as they took online orders in cash from self-publishers but failed to deliver any printed books. They used the names of Printed Books Ltd, Book Printer UK, The Printing Press and UK, Litho Printing Limited and similar sounding firms.

Despite being banned in May in court in Manchester John continued to set up new websites offering discounts to aspiring publishers with near identical websites trading under the names of Book World Ltd and Hardback Printer Limited. The court wound them up in September in the public interest.

Writing on Print Week’s website in October Jo Francis said: “The court heard a familiar tale regarding the mode of operation of Book World, which attracted customers – often self-publishers – by offering cheap prices and then outsourced the printing, mainly to printers based in Eastern Europe. The registered addresses of the two firms were in London, but the Insolvency Service found they were in reality virtual office providers and the companies actually operated from Barry, in South Wales.”

In a statement, Insolvency Service chief investigator Helen Cosgrove said: “Many of the companies’ victims were everyday consumers looking for a good price to get their work published as they didn’t have the support of a big publishing house behind them. However, investigations clearly proved Book World had no interest in serving their clients and provided shoddy levels of output, while Hardback Printer was all set-up to do exactly the same. We are pleased the courts recognised this and have shut down their activities to prevent further people from becoming victims.”

Although the duo fleeced hundreds of people of their cash with a promise of printed books they also ordered print from some UK firms but others from Europe including Turkey, Ukraine and the Baltic nations. Some of their customers received their books – although usually in an unsatisfactory condition – but the print firms rarely if ever got paid with some left with large unpaid invoices to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

At this point the story one would hope would come to an end and John would hopefully return to his original vocation that of a high pressure salesman. However a tip-off from one of his victims this week has noted he’s changed his name again to Neill St John and has apparently got married in a lavish ceremony – not to his long term partner Clair Hunnisett – but to events company manager Krystal St John.

ICSM Credit’s Ian Carrotte said: “We have been warning members of this man for more than two years as he has left print companies in this country with unpaid invoices. He has also taken hundreds of thousands of pounds off members of the public. My fear is under a new name he will again begin trading and targetting the unknowing public and trusting businesses.”

For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.

To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.carrotte@icsmcredit.com

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

Picture: Ian Malcolm Stuart John’s new Facebook profile image although he now calls himelf Ian St John – not to be confused with the Scottish footballer

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