Market trader accused of credit card scam

The Northern Echo: Stuart Bell arrives at Teesside Crown Court Stuart Bell arrives at Teesside Crown Court

A MARKET trader paid for house renovations and an expensive watch from a credit card scam which totalled £133,765, a jury has been told.

Stuart Brian Bell denies 11 counts of fraud by false representation said to have been committed while he was running a mobile phone accessory business in Darlington's covered market on West Row.

David Crook, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said multiple false transactions were made – 52 in total – after cards belonging to Mr Bell were swiped using the business's chip and pin machine.

Mr Crook said in each instance fraudulent refunds were made to the respective credit card accounts with no corresponding purchases having been made by customers.

During the period in which the phantom refunds were being made - December 17, 2008, and January 31, 2009 - £37,211 was taken from cash machines using the cards that were wrongly credited, he said. This included a £2,500 cash withdrawal from a machine at a hospital where his son was receiving treatment.

Meanwhile, a further £68,000 worth of refund transactions were stopped once the six figure fraud was uncovered.

Mr Bell, 42, of Brudenell Way, Darlington, refused to answer direct questions when quizzed by police – instead preferring to answer via pre-prepared statements.

He said he was not responsible for the refunds and in fact the cards in question had been used by another man who took over the business.

However officers were unable to trace this man - “drawing blanks at every turn” in their enquiries - and Mr Crook said he did not exist.

He said: “He [Mr Bell] did what he did dishonestly and intending to make a gain for himself or others.

“We say he is guilty and he was responsible for all of these transactions. The refunds went into his accounts which were in his sole control. He was actively using and spending on those accounts and withdrawing cash from them.

“He would have been aware of what was going on.”

The trial continues and is expected to last up to five days.

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