A PINCHBECK businessman says he felt “physically and emotionally sick” when he realised he had been conned out of £83,000.
Ark ICT Solutions, of Bear Lane, was one of two village firms to fall victim to the “very pleasant and very chatty” Scott Walker, a conman from Peterborough who was jailed for four-and-a-half years on Friday (see panel on right).
Director Phil Callow says he faced making his staff redundant and closing down the business as a result of Walker’s actions until a customer put forward the cash to save them.
Mr Callow says his firm, which supplies ICT services to local schools and businesses, came across Walker in January 2008.
He said: “We put an advert in the Yellow Pages and this guy approached us saying he was a developer working on a project in Peterborough and he was looking to get hold of some televisions.
“He kept ringing and saying he wanted ten of this and ten of that and before you knew it it was very difficult to step back and see the bigger picture.
“He used a valid name at a valid company with a valid address. When we checked the details, it matched.”
Mr Callow says a cheque was handed over after the first delivery and Walker was “persistent” in contacting them over the next few days.
“It was difficult to take your eyes off the game and realise we were being taken for a ride,” said Mr Callow. “It was so intense. He was always very pleasant and very chatty on the phone.”
However, the first cheque then bounced – something Mr Callow was told was an error. When a second cheque bounced, Mr Callow never heard from Walker again.
Ark ICT Solutions was left owing £83,000.
It later emerged Wardentree Lane machinery supplier G & J Peck was also tricked out of equipment worth £10,000. The firm declined to comment on Friday’s verdict.
Mr Callow said: “I have never felt so ill. I have never felt so physically and emotionally sick. We knew we had to pay our suppliers back, it wasn’t their fault. We had employees who had mortgages, I had a mortgage.
“It meant that we did not know what was going to happen. I did not know if the business would be able to exist, whether I would have to sell my house or get rid of the guys.”
However, Mr Callow says a “wonderful, kind customer”, who he did not want to name, offered to lend him the money “no strings attached” to allow them to continue.
He said: “It was like sitting at the bottom of a well not knowing how to get back to the top again. His money did not make the hole any less deep and we still had to pay that money back but it enabled us to work out the situation ourselves.”
Mr Callow praised the work of DCs Paul Coleman and Lance Morgan, from Lincolnshire Police who worked tirelessly to solve the case.
“We know he (Walker) didn’t just do this to me,” added Mr Callow. “There’s every likelihood he was looking to do it again. At least we can protect other people for four-and-a-half years from being taken for a ride.”
Speaking after the hearing, DC Coleman said: “This was a crime which caused significant hardship to honest, decent people, some of whom nearly lost their business and their home as a result. I was pleased, therefore, that Judge Morris commented on this and reflected this in his sentencing.
“I hope that this demonstrates the committment of the police to apprehending and bringing offenders to justice.”