Cou­ple sold £440,000 of ‘washed’ postage stamps Pair jailed for bizarre fraud that re­moved can­cel­la­tion mark

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Ross Mc­Carthy Court Cor­re­spon­dent

ACROOKED Birm­ing­ham cou­ple who de­frauded the Royal Mail by “wash­ing” used stamps and sell­ing them on eBay as new have both been jailed.

As a re­sult of their scam, which they ran from their home in Shel­don for five years, they caused a po­ten­tial loss to the com­pany of more than £400,000.

Wendy Baker, 55 and Dean West­wood, 56, both of Heng­ham Road, had pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud, pos­sess­ing ar­ti­cles for use in fraud, adapt­ing an ar­ti­cle for fraud and sup­ply­ing an ar­ti­cle for fraud.

They were both sen­tenced to two years im­pris­on­ment.

The cou­ple started buy­ing used first and se­cond class stamps in bulk in July 2013. They came from char­i­ties and other or­gan­i­sa­tions and were only nor­mally of in­ter­est to stamp col­lec­tors who were look­ing for un­usual or rare stamps.

The amount they bought and then sold on eBay “dra­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ated” from ini­tially £7,262 to £48,518 worth, said Ben Gow, pros­e­cut­ing, at Birm­ing­ham Crown Court.

The vast ma­jor­ity of the sales were to busi­nesses and traders and there were mul­ti­ple and re­peat pur­chases.

Mr Gow said the de­fen­dants had sub­jected the stamps to a chem­i­cal process to re­move their can­cel­la­tion marks.

The glue was re­moved from the back with white spirit, they were dried with tal­cum pow­der, put on dry­ing racks and sprayed with hair­spray “to make them look bet­ter.”

They were sold at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­count and in 2014 Baker and West- wood es­tab­lished a com­pany called Stamp­busters as a ve­hi­cle for the il­le­gal en­ter­prise which was reg­is­tered to their home with both of them named as di­rec­tors.

The value of the amount of stamps sold was £443,244 while the de­fen­dant’s prof­ited to the tune of £149,344.

Mr Gow said the cou­ple had ad­ver­tised their busi­ness with the ad­verts car­ry­ing dis­claimers in a bid to le­git­imise what they had done.

The de­fen­dants had used the bo­gus stamps to send parcels them­selves and Royal Mail in­ves­ti­ga­tors who made test pur­chases from them and other buy­ers iden­ti­fied the postage stamps as hav­ing pre­vi­ously been used.

Of­fi­cers who went to their ad­dress in Septem­ber last year dis­cov­ered large num­bers of first and se­cond class stamps “in var­i­ous states of process.”

When quizzed Baker said she had got the idea from some­one in the pub while West­wood said he had no money at the time.

In pass­ing sen­tence, Recorder Rachel Brand QC said the fraud had been “per­sis­tent and planned”.

She went on “You placed into cir­cu­la­tion a huge num­ber of washed stamps over a num­ber of years al­low­ing oth­ers to use them to cheat the Royal Mail out of rev­enue they were en­ti­tled to.”

Katie Fox, for Baker, said “This started as a le­git­i­mate en­ter­prise. Baker needed a job so that she could work from home that was part time.”

She said there was a de­gree of un­so­phis­ti­ca­tion about it and that she had made no at­tempt to hide what she was do­ing.

An­drew Tucker, for West­wood, said he was nor­mally an hon­est and hard-work­ing man.

> Dean West­wood and Wendy Baker out­side Birm­ing­ham Crown Court

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