Judge tells Vance: ‘Pay £2.3m or go to prison’
BUSINESSMAN WANTED ON FRAUD CHARGES SET TO LOSE ASSETS – INCLUDING HOMES AND YACHT
KITCHEN trader Vance Miller has been ordered to pay more than £2.3m within three months or risk eight years in jail.
A judge ruled Miller, 52, has ‘a criminal lifestyle’ and has benefited from his ‘criminal conduct’ to the tune of £2,357,761.
Miller, who was behind kitchen firms trading mainly in Oldham and Rochdale, is believed to be in Java, Indonesia, while wanted on fraud charges. Investigators are now poised to strip his assets, including his property portfolio and personalised number plates.
Judge Michael Leeming QC made a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act in Miller’s absence at Manchester Crown Court. A yacht he owned called ‘Cranachan,’ moored near Abersoch in Wales, has already been sold to realise the sum, the court heard.
Miller also stands to lose a beach hut in Pwllheli valued at £100,000, a renovated farm in his name in Rishworth, West Yorkshire, believed to be worth £195,000, various other properties and valuable vehicle registration plates – including one reading V4 NCE which has been valued at £20,000.
The Proceeds of Crime Act is legislation used to force criminals to pay back their ill-gotten gains.
As in Miller’s case, the act allows for confiscation hearings to proceed against people who have absconded after being summonsed to appear on charges.
Miller was summonsed to appear before magistrates in York in December 2013 accused of a series of offences including conspiracy to defraud and fraudulent trading – relating to allegations that poor quality kitchens and fittings were passed off as luxury buys.
He failed to attend and Judge Leeming QC said he has remained an ‘absconder’ ever since. A warrant for his arrest issued when he failed to attend court in 2013 remains in force. Miller also failed to attend the two-day POCA hearing in Manchester. The court heard Miller traded out of Maple Mill in Oldham, which burnt down in a fire in December last year. A warrant executed on the mill before the fire netted £14,000 in cash, and while the mill is now worthless because the land is classed as contaminated, scrap steel taken from the building’s shell fetched over £150,000 at auction.
Prosecutors moved to seize Miller’s assets after a number of people said to have worked for him were jailed last year.
Investigators said that so far, 117 people who lodged complaints about kitchens stand to share £223,703 in compensation.
Judge Leeming QC said: “The defendant does have, in my judgement, a criminal lifestyle.
“I am satisfied that the benefit figure for Mr Miller from his criminal conduct is £2,357,761.” Lord Toby Harris, chair, National Trading Standards, said: “Unfortunately, sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between a legitimate and a criminal business – particularly if they take steps to conceal their true nature. However, if you are in any doubt I would urge you to help us clamp down on this criminal activity by calling the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06”.
Kitchen trader Vance Miller is wanted on fraud charges