A mother and son from near Pocklington have been jailed for scamming £411,388 from up to 3,000 people and spending it on Caribbean and Florida holidays while living in a five-bed farmhouse with a swimming pool.
Ian Chatfield, 28, and Mechelle Chatfield, 47, of Cleaving Grange, Nunburnholme, kept customers’ credit card details from websites – Paws Pets Supermarket, and Shop 4 Your Pets – and used them up to 13 times to re-charge them month-after-month hoping they would not be spotted.
The couple blew up to £30,000 on holidays to Florida and a cruise to the Caribbean while raking in cash over two years and claiming to be poor. Investigators found they were also claiming benefits while living at Field House Farm, Routh, near Beverley.
They had the gall to defraud investigators by using a test purchase credit card five times. Even after their arrest they conned customers out of a further £7,000. They now have only £10 left to be confiscated.
When challenged to say sorry to customers outside Hull Crown Court both refused to say a word.
The mother and son both pleaded guilty last month to a single charge of running a fraudulent business between 4 January, 2010 and 1 April, 2012. They had also run a stall on Beverley market.
Crown barrister David Dixon said it was a simple fraud. “In the normal way, items were selected by customers, their credit card details were provided and items would normally arrive,” said Mr Dixon.
“However, they would then repeatedly use the cards to get more and more from their customers.
“As an example, one customer bought two dog coats at a total cost of £42.49. They arrived. However, following a letter from trading standards he checked his statements and realised that six extra payments had been taken. In fact, the dog coats cost him £297.”
Mr Dixon said the couple befriended a witness who was able to describe their lifestyle. He described Mechelle Chatfield as “the scariest woman he had ever met. She would argue with people in the street and be physically aggressive to Martin Chatfield, her other son. She was very manipulative and tried to give the impression she was a victim, but was not.”
Altogether there were 35,128 attempts to use customers’ cards fraudulent. Some attempts failed, either because cards had reached their limit or customers had reported fraudulent activity. If all the fraudulent attempts had succeeded, the Chatfields would have netted £576,288.
When arrested Ian Chatfield said he was not dishonest. Mechelle Chatfield claimed to be seeing aliens. When a force mental health examiner was called Mechelle Chatfield began crying at will. She gained the impression Chatfield was doing it to avoid answering questions.
Barrister Paul Jarvis for Ian Chatfield said: “It was his input which provided the firm with the online presence which began in 2005. It was not a case of it beginning as a criminal enterprise, the family has a history in the pet supply industry. A number of people were employed to help. The fact was many people did not realise they were being defrauded. Some people complained others did not.”
Sentencing the pair to four-and-a-half years in prison, Judge Mark Bury said: “Mechelle Chatfield, it is said you are remorseful. I detect no remorse.
“In the pre-sentence report you denied that you were dishonest and blamed victims for negligence. You have no empathy and you portrayed yourself as mentally fragile and distressed to avoid your responsibilities.”
In addition to their prison sentences, both defendants were given confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act for £10, which they must pay within 28 days or serve an additional seven days in prison.