A threatening fish seller left his vulnerable victims feeling 'coerced, conned and foolish' after being ripped off.

Craig Henderson was locked up for five years and seven months after raking in £254,000 from more than 100 customers over a three-and-a-half year period.

Judge Howard Crowson praised the diligence of investigators from the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team after sentencing the conman at Teesside Crown Court.

The team trawled through 50-year-old's bank statements to identify as many victims as they could before pulling together the evidence of Henderson's shocking behaviour.

The judge heard how the dodgy salesman targeted victims as old as 105 using aggressive, manipulative and unfair selling and business practices.

Victims across England were pressured in their homes into paying exorbitant prices for fish that was often unfit for human consumption.

In some cases, payment was taken without permission and many victims were not told the price of the fish until it was already in their freezer.

Most of Henderson's victims were retired, with many living alone or suffering from serious health conditions.

The Northern Echo: Craig HendersonCraig Henderson (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Henderson, who used various trading names including Scotland’s Finest, Atlantic Fisheries and North Atlantic Fresh Fish, was convicted following a prosecution taken by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council after an investigation by the Regional Investigation Team.

The offences were carried out between November 2017 and June 2021 and Mr Henderson pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading.

Speaking after the hearing, Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Threatening older victims – including at least one aged over 100 – and intimidating them in their own homes shows utter cowardice.

"Many victims were repeatedly targeted, giving the defendant money they could not afford to lose, just to make him go away.

“Once again our team in the North East – who have carried out a number of prosecutions against illegal fish sellers – have stopped a ruthless individual in his tracks and prevented untold further harm. I’m proud of everyone involved for their relentless efforts to identify and bring these criminals to justice."

One person was targeted four times and “felt obliged to buy due to his intimidating nature”. On each occasion, she was home alone and only bought fish to get him to leave.

Another victim described how Henderson offered to drive her to a cash machine – after cooking one of the packs of fish she bought, she had to throw the other 13 away.

While another described how she paid £370 for 36 packs of unlabelled fish which she had no chance to inspect after Henderson entered her home uninvited.

The court heard how Henderson had been warned repeatedly about his behaviour and offered support to help him meet his legal responsibilities in the years leading up to his criminal behaviour.

After complaints about him persisted, an investigation found that Henderson:

  • Sold fish at exorbitantly high prices, primarily to older people
  • Pressurised victims into making a purchase by placing the fish in the victim’s freezer without being asked to do so
  • Misused his card processing terminal by keying in incorrect payment information
  • Used vehicles with trader signage not linked to his business to give his customers confidence and enhance his credibility
  • Continued to operate during the first Covid-19 lockdown, taking advantage of the fact that many older people were finding it difficult to get to the shops
  • Became threatening when challenged.

Henderson, formerly of Chester-le-Street now of Fir Avenue, Durham, was also handed an indefinite Criminal Behaviour Order, preventing him from doorstep selling.

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