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£5m west Wales mortgage fraud

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swansea crown courtA WEST WALES estate agent and three businessmen who tried to rig the mortgage market have been jailed today “for their greed and dishonesty.” The four tried to make a fortune out of a rising housing market—and another fortune as prices dipped. Swansea Crown Court heard how in some cases they deliberately defaulted on mortgage payments, and then invented land disputes in the hope of buying back the houses at lower prices.

Ben Pickering, once a prospective Conservative candidate for parliament, and now living at Trevarron, Barrack Lane in Truro, Cornwall, admitted conspiring to defraud banks and building societies. He was jailed for six years. Mark Cainen, of West Cross Avenue in Swansea, and former financial adviser Paul John, aged 44, of Greenfield Crescent, Llansamlet in Swansea, were convicted of the same offence after a trial. Cainen was jailed for eight years and John for three years and four months.

West Wales estate agent Emma Davey,aged 34 of Rhydargaeau in Carmarthen, was jailed for one year, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work for the community. All four now face a Proceeds of Crime Act investigation as the government tries to confiscate the profit made from the £5 million fraud. Carl Harrison, prosecuting, said the four had been involved in a sophisticated conspiracy during which they successfully applied for mortgages using false names, created false identities, invented salaries and tried to manipulate the market to their advantage.

They frequently sold properties to each other and bought computer software capable of producing convincing looking payslips. Mr Harrison said Pickering and Cainen were at the heart of the conspiracy, which ran for eight years. Mr Harrison added: “Pickering and Cainen acted as buyers, sellers and points of contact in the conspiracy and they provided false information such as shadow salary payments, invoices, pay slips and P60 documents giving details of tax said to have been paid.

“There is some evidence Cainen was directing Ben Pickering, telling him what he should do and the order in which he should do it. “They were effectively stealing the identities of other people and companies and taking the identities of people of a similar age to get mortgages approved.” During Cainen’s trial e-mails were produced by the prosecution that showed Cainen saying to Pickering: “Get your smoke and mirrors out.”

Another from Cainen criticised Pickering “for not being a good crook”. At one time Cainen had more than 20 bank accounts in different names and Pickering obtained software to make false pay slips. Paul John was sacked by a Swansea finance firm in 2008 when a colleague found a false mortgage application for his wife in his desk drawer. The court heard after his arrest, Pickering continued to work as a film director and made two successful films, however due to financial hardship, he was now living in the attic of his inlaws’ home.

The judge suspended Davey’s jail term due to previous good character and the fact she was “prevailed upon” Judge Thomas said at the sentencing hearing today: “I have been told in letters on behalf of Pickering that the economic downturn and its effect on the housing market was the driving factor. “I don’t accept that argument in any shape or form, these offences were fraudulent from the outset. This was fuelled not by economic necessity but by greed.”

 

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Brand new features unveiled at Scolton Manor Park

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ONE of Pembrokeshire’s best-loved family destinations has announced it will be unveiling several new attractions in June, ready for the summer holidays.  

Among the new features at Scolton Manor are an eco-explorer village, a 1.2km woodland cycle track, an outdoor pirate ship play area and a dedicated railway attraction complete with steam train locomotive ‘Margaret’ and ‘Scolton Express’ play train.

Mark Thomas, manager of Scolton Manor Park, said the team were looking forward to showing visitors the new attractions.

“We’re delighted with our new facilities and believe they will perfectly complement the attractions we have here already at Scolton,” he said.

The woodland eco-explorer village aims to give children more opportunities for outside play and spark their enthusiasm to discover more about the natural world.  

Cllr Paul Miller, Cabinet Member for Economy, Tourism, Culture and Leisure, said the village is perfect for all young explorers from toddlers right through to older children.

“Children love playing outside and we want to inspire them through their play to not only find out more about biodiversity and the environment but also how to care for it,” he said.

“As well as eco-explorer areas, games and activities there will be fun tips on how they can reuse, reduce and recycle more and protect the environment.”

The eco-explorer village is funded by a £50,000 grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Community Scheme and £25,000 grant from Community Facilities Programme (Welsh Government), in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers’ Association.

Mark Thomas said the current attractions at Scolton have also proved very popular since the outdoor areas at the park re-opened to the public earlier this spring.

As well as an adventure play area for older children which includes a 30-metre zip wire, a spinning climbing web and ‘super swings’,  younger visitors can enjoy the wooden playground, sensory musical play area and woodland play features.

“The many and varied attractions at Scolton enhance its role as a community facility while providing a wide range of countryside experiences at a lower cost,” said Mark.

“The new features in particular will also help to continue the development of the site into a must-visit tourist attraction within mid and North Pembrokeshire.”

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