Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageA matter of life and debt

By Alexander Baron     May 17, 2011 in Crime
A review of a BBC Television programme presented by Dominic Littlewood, part of his "Fake Britain" series which gives an insight into fake goods, fake parking tickets and illegal money lending.
Dominic Littlewood may not be the best looking man on British TV, but if as many people watched his exposés as the ubiquitous soap operas, half the country’s policemen would be made redundant. Alas, today’s episode of Fake Britain which he hosts also contains a sad and rather poignant vignette of a young man driven to suicide by a loan shark.
For those lucky people who can receive BBC iplayer, today’s programme can be found at: bbc.co.uk
For those who can’t, look out for it on Youtube.
The programme also covers the fake autograph industry, imports of fake cigarettes from China, and even fake parking tickets.
The fake parking ticket scam was very clever; in Wolverhampton, a con man produced parking tickets which had an official feel, probably by scanning an authentic ticket and then amending the details. These fakes contained a notice to the effect that the issuing company, Midland Parking Solutions, was working with “Wolverhampton City Commerce” which duped victims into believing they had been fined by Wolverhampton City Council. The man behind the con, Clifton Hoffman, was raided by trading standards officers. Undeterred, he simply changed his modus operandi, and began clamping cars and towing them away illegally. One man was told that if he wanted his car back he would have to pay a fine of £450.
Eventually the law caught up with Hoffman, and he was gaoled for six months, a surprisingly lenient sentence considering he had previous convictions for “violence and firearms offences”.
The programme also visited Felixstowe, home of Britain’s largest container port, where customs seized 3.699 million fake cigarettes; as one Border Agency officer said: “we don’t normally import British manufactured cigarettes from China”.
The report on fake autographs had some comical moments – not for Chris Allbutt who paid £4,000 for a fake autograph of the legendary Bruce Lee – although he should have been a mite suspicious when he bought a signed photograph of the soccer player Pelé, because as the expert drafted in by Littlewood pointed out, there are only four letters in Pelé, and the forger had got three of them wrong! When he pointed out that other signed photographs including of Tiger Woods and one of John Wayne and Rock Hudson together were also faked, poor Chris looked positively gutted.
It has to be said that most or all of the above, including the Bruce Lee fake, were actually purchased from a dealer in the United States, but no one ever said forgery was a local phenomenon.
The saddest part of the programme though related to the suicide of 22 year old Brian Shields, who borrowed £300 from a loan shark, and ended up with a debt of £3400. On December 3, 2005, he was found hanging in the attic of the family home. It was more than three years before justice caught up with the man who had driven him to take his own life; in February 2009, Paul Nicholson was convicted inter alia of 12 counts of blackmail, illegal money lending and rape. The following month he was given a life sentence. He was said to have had six hundred debtors on his books.
Carol Highton, the mother of Brian Shields, has set up a trust in her son’s name to give advice and support to people trapped by illegal loan sharks. At the end of the programme when she was interviewed by Littlewood, she said there was help out there for anyone who had problems with illegal money lenders.
More about fake autographs, illegal money lenders, Brian Shields Trust, Dominic Littlewood, Paul Nicholson
More news from
Latest News
Top News