A FISH salesman described as parasitic netted more than £100,000 by ripping off vulnerable customers across England.

Peter Carroll, 51, of Chester-le-Street, dumped bags of "smelly seafood" on victims after he and a network of other sellers under his command used high pressure and exploitative tactics to force them into handing over their money.

Now, after a judge ordered him to repay almost £8,000, business regulators in the region have used the story to show how they are fighting back against the problem.

David Ellerington, trading standards manager at Newcastle City Council, said: “One of the biggest issues Environmental Health has with doorstep crime is people knocking on your door and ripping you off is fish sellers.

“They tend to be based in Chester-le-Street, go to the fish quays in places like Hartlepool, take the labels off and head to Leicestershire, Cheshire and other places.”

He added: “They’re quite parasitic and some of the stories are quite difficult to deal with, such as people having to buy a freezer because they’ve been sold so much fish.”

Mr Ellerington was speaking at a recent meeting of the Tyne and Wear Trading Standards Joint Committee.

Details of Carroll’s case were included in a report for the panel, which said he would collect £1,000 orders from Hartlepool Fish Quay before heading out, eventually amassing a £103,182 "benefit from crime".

Another example given was Adam Brown, 30, also of Chester-le-Street, who a judge told to pay compensation worth £2,624.70.

Councillor Jill Fletcher, who represents Washington, told the committee her mother had been left "terrified" after being targeted by rogue fish sellers and after being intimidated into writing a cheque had then been charged a bank fee to have it cancelled.

Escalating concerns over the practice have now seen a regional investigations team set up and funded by the National Trading Standards Board.

Laura Brooks, principal trading standards officer at Sunderland City Council and who has previously worked at Durham County Council, said: “Complaints are spread all over the country and all the offences are taking place miles away from County Durham.”