A MOTHER and son along with the manager of their Kingswood-based leaflet distribution business admitted ripping off hundreds of clients across the country.
Bristol Crown Court heard that DPDS Leaflet Distribution Ltd took money from estate agents, takeaways and even a church for distributing publicity material, but did not carry out the work.
Company owner Denise Presland, 50, of Tower Road South, Warmley, and her son, Darren Presland, 28, of Hill View, Soundwell, admitted the fraud offences when they appeared in court on November 23.
Manager Laurence Brown, 49, of Travers Close, Bristol, also pleaded guilty to fraud at a hearing on November 29. The trio were all given suspended sentences.
The court heard DPDS, in Douglas Road, intentionally failed to deliver some or all of the various promotional materials that some 241 customers had paid to have distributed.
The charges also related to another leaflet distribution business they ran from the same address called Lo-Cost Leaflet Distribution Ltd, of which Darren Presland was the director.
Both businesses traded nationwide and had a large customer base.
The case was brought by trading standards officers at South Gloucestershire Council and the charges date back as far as January 2005.
Officers were first alerted to the company's activities after a large amount of complaints were made from Scotland to Devon from a variety of customers.
All complained that they had paid to have from as little as a few hundred to over 100,000 leaflets distributed, but had seen no evidence that this had taken place.
In May 2011 officers from trading standards and the police raided the business premises at the Douglas Road Industrial Park and Mrs Presland's home address in Warmley. All three defendants were arrested and an investigation began.
Judge Geoffrey Mercer gave Denise Presland a 12-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, with 200 hours' unpaid work.
Her reward for the scam was put at £250,000 and she was told to pay that back as well as £45,000 costs. She was disqualified from being a company director for five years.
The judge gave Darren Presland and Brown each a six-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, with 150 hours' unpaid work. Darren Presland's benefit was deemed at £74,400 and he was told to pay back £800 due to available assets. They were disqualified from being company directors for two years.
Judge Mercer spared Denise Presland immediate custody due to family commitments.
He told her: "Your presence is of crucial importance. For that reason alone I can and should suspend sentence. You richly deserve to go to prison and you could not have complained if you did."
Neil Derrick, senior enforcement officer at South Gloucestershire Council, said: "During this large- scale investigation, we identified more than 200 victims who had paid in excess of £200,000 to DPDS and Lo-Cost, excluding their printing costs. It is possible that many more of their customers may have fallen victim to these practices, but they may not even know it, putting their lack of response down to poor marketing or the economy.
"What's more, their selfish actions may have affected the chances of new and established businesses trying to survive in the current economic climate as they may have lost out on potential business to these fraudulent traders."