A HARTLEPOOL businessman misled jobseekers into handing over tens of thousands of
pounds in an employment scam.
Training company boss James William Akin promised jobs earning £30,000 a year to those who signed up to his scheme.
But the work never materialised, leaving 20 people who had signed up to his online training scheme £70,000 out of pocket.
Akin, 58, admitted breaching trading regulations at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
But he was escaped with a community order and was ordered to pay £500 each to two of his victims - at a rate of just £5 a week.
His firm Kalmindon Ltd - which has ceased to trade - offered a course in internet search engine optimisation, which cost £2,500 plus £375 VAT.
It was advertised in Job Centre Plus sites nationwide throughout 2009 and 2010, and promised people signing up a guaranteed annual income of £30,000 and sufficient employment and business leads on completion.
But those who signed up found that training took longer than planned, and that no jobs materialised at the end of it, prosecutor Michele Stowe said.
Akin admitted he had grossly overestimated the likely demand for the company’s services.
Stockton Council, which the business was based within the boundaries of, prosecuted both Akin and his company for engaging in unfair commercial practices.
Both he and his company pleaded guilty to two offences of misleading actions in respect of guaranteed employment, face-to-face training, a guaranteed client base and that income would exceed £30,000.
The court was told of the 58-year-old’s life, and how he once owning a £2.5m seven-bedroom home in the private estate of Wynyard in County Durham but is now on benefits.
Akin has been ordered to pay two of the complainants £500 compensation each and complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
Magistrates told Akin that the amount of compensation would have been more if it wasn’t for his current financial circumstances.
They ordered that £5 a week be deducted from Akin’s benefits.
The court heard that events out of Akin’s control led to the failure of his Billingham-based company Kalmindon Ltd, that he has been “humiliated” by the downfall and that he is now a man of “limited means”.
Akin and his wife now receive £105 a week in Jobseekers Allowance and £62 in housing benefit.
After the repossession of his Wynyard mansion, he now lives in a privately rented four-bedroom detached property in nearby Hartlepool.
He pays £1,100-a-month rent, which is subsidised with savings.
And despite the large sums raked in, jobless Akin was ordered to pay back just £1,000 in compensation to his victims, at only £5 a week.
Akin and Kalmindon also pleaded guilty to misleading omissions in a Job Centre Plus advertisement, which failed to disclose that no clients actually existed.
It also neglected to say that completion of the training depended on how quickly the instructor marked work and that the course was online, with no face-to-face mentoring.
Adam McGlison, defending, said Akin had used his experience as a successful businessman to create the training package.
But he said a combination of factors, including the recession and the fact that Akin’s brother - who was going to run the training course - took ill, had a “knock on effect”, meaning Akin couldn’t meet his “optimistic promises”.
Mr McGlison said, his client who had no previous conviction, had not been “lining his pockets” with the money.
He added: “He has gone from being a proud and successful businessman of many years to being in a position where he has nothing at all. His self confidence has been shattered.”
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and community Safety, said: “This case has affected people across the country, many of whom could ill afford neither the fees nor the lack of work at the end of their course.
“To make matters worse, much of what they learned would have been freely available on the internet.
“We will do all we can to assist any consumers who wish to pursue a refund. I hope this case will act as a warning to others who may be tempted to set up a scam.”
The Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 ban traders from using unfair commercial practices towards consumers and include a general prohibition on dishonest market practices along with sanctions for false or misleading actions which harm the economic interests of consumers.