A travelling fish salesman who ripped off his customers by selling his haul at extortionate prices by conning vulnerable or elderly victims has been locked up.

Brian Pendlington sold fish to customers across the North East and the Midlands pretending that he had made the catch himself or bought it locally fresh from a trawler.

The 43-year-old and his team of salesmen were often using fish caught in the seas around Greece but selling it as fresh and without adequate or accurate details, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Sabrina Goodchild, prosecuting, said some of the fish was tested and found to be ‘unfit for human consumption’ after scores of customers raised concerns about the defendant’s sales practices and the quality of the fish.

The court heard how Pendlington had sold £6,186.04 of dodgy fish to customers despite being reminded by Trading Standards that his operation was acting illegally in 2016 and 2017.

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The defendant, trading as Trawler Fresh Limited, faced the prosecution brought by Redcar and Cleveland Council after 28 customers lodged complaints about his actions.

Miss Goodchild said one of the customers paid almost £60 for £10s worth of fish while another was so embarrassed at being ripped off, she was unable to tell her family about it.

She added that several of his victims were shielding at the time of the offences, which took place throughout the lockdown periods of Covid, and felt pressured into buying the fish even without knowing how much they were to be charged.

Pendlington, of The Oval, Chester-le-Street, pleaded guilty to being a trader knowingly or recklessly engaged in a commercial practice which contravened the requirements of professional diligence.

A further fraud charge was discontinued but the defendant accepts ‘he is finished in this business’ after his guilty plea.

Andrew Walker, in mitigation, said his client had run a respectable business for a number of years before his problems started when he expanded his operation and took on new salesmen.

“It was not until he was presented with the evidence of various examples of poor selling that he started to fully appreciate the scale of it,” said.

“He has ceased trading and has no intention of going back to it.”

Recorder Jeremy Barnett told Pendlington he believed the defendant used a number of misleading and aggressive techniques to sell his wares to his predominantly elderly clients.

“The simple fact is that you should have taken more care when you consider your customer base,” he said.

“You delivered excess quantities; your salesmen packed the fridges of the clients and they weren’t in a position to resist or put up any resistance to these tactics.”

Pendlington was sentenced to eight months in prison for his failure to learn from his warnings in the years leading up to his arrest.

He was also issued with a criminal behaviour order to prevent him selling fish again.

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