The boss of a Leamington-based interior design company has been told it is ‘highly likely’ she will be jailed after a jury convicted her of defrauding customers.
Jane Jobson had denied aiding and abetting her partner Terence Naylor to take part in the management of Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd while he was an undischarged bankrupt.
She also denied a charge of fraudulent trading by carrying on the business, based in Regent Grove, Leamington, with intent to defraud its creditors.
But after more than ten hours at the end of her five-week trial, a jury at Warwick Crown Court found Jobson (54) of Browns Lane, Coventry, guilty of both charges by a majority of 11-1.
But she was cleared of aiding and abetting Naylor in respect of her previous business, Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd – and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether she was involved in fraudulent trading in relation to that business.
Judge Stephen Eyre QC adjourned the case to give the prosecution time to consider whether to ask for a retrial on that charge, but questioned whether it would be in the public interest.
On the day the trial was due to begin, Naylor (55) of Naylor Crescent, Nantwich, Cheshire, had pleaded guilty to taking part in the management of both companies while an undischarged bankrupt and fraudulent trading in respect of both businesses.
If there is no request for Jobson to stand trial again, she and Naylor will be sentenced together by Judge Eyre, for whom the trial was his last case at the court, and he agreed to adjourn for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.
But he warned Jobson’s barrister Jonathan Veasey-Pugh: “Neither you nor she must be under any misapprehension.
“If I am the sentencing judge, a custodial sentence is highly likely.”
“During the trial prosecutor Simon Davis said: “The case is all about two limited companies, Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd and Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd.
“The prosecution case is that Miss Jobson and Mr Naylor were trading fraudulently with the intention of defrauding their customers.
“They offered interior design and building work, and took large deposits off their customers.
“Once you hand the money over for goods, you’re expecting back whatever they might be.
“You anticipate those goods are going to be ordered by the person to whom you have given the deposit.
“You will have to consider whether the goods in this case were ever ordered and whether they were received.
“On occasions deposits were over £10,000, so we are talking big money, and on occasions the customer got absolutely nothing or, on occasion, something, but not what they ordered.”
On the question of whether Jobson was aware of what was going on, Mr Davis said that although she was the sole director of the two companies, they were seen as joint owners, and were not just in a business relationship, but were partners at the time.
He said there was a good reason why Naylor was not on any company documents – because, as an undischarged bankrupt, he was barred from taking part in the management of a business.
And Mr Davis suggested Jobson was aware of that, and of what was happening with both businesses.
Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd was incorporated in January 2011 and went into liquidation in March the following year, owing nearly £100,000.
Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd, operating from the same Regent Grove address, was incorporated in February 2012 and was wound up in January 2014, owing in the region of £400,000.
Mr Davis said that in 2011 a ten-year lease was signed for the premises in Regent Grove, with an annual rent of £19,500 – but by December 2012 the landlords were owed £25,000 and by July 2013 that had risen to £32,000.
The shop was fitted to a high standard to provide comfort and ‘an air of respectability,’ but invoices from suppliers which included the Polished Floor Company in Regent Street went unpaid.
With many disgruntled customers, Naylor attended a county court hearing to fend off a creditor’s claim before the company went into liquidation and re-emerged as Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd.
But a further succession of customers paid deposits and payments totalling amounts ranging from £10,000 to as much as £27,000 in one case and £58,000 in another for work including kitchens, bathrooms and extensions which were never completed.
One couple, Mr and Mrs Chung, paid a £15,000 deposit for an extension, ‘but then there was silence.’
Eventually they told Jobson they were concerned about the project, and that they did not want their money back, but did want the actual kitchen supplied, which they would fit themselves.
Jobson agreed to that and said she would go to the house to design the kitchen – but failed to show.
Mr Davis told the jury: “Both defendants were equal trading partners in the company, and both knew what the other was doing. They were taking large deposits and there were subsequent failures to order goods or do work.”
And he argued that if Jobson did not know of Naylor’s situation initially, and was not aware of what was happening with Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd customers, she must have known and been involved in what went on with the successor company.