A review of the latest episode of BBC Television’s “Fake Britain” series which exposes a cheap parking scam, and a sham college where the phrase paying for your education was interpreted literally.
Tired of mindless soap operas with unbelievable plots? In this episode of Fake Britain, Dominic Littlewood proves yet again that the truth is often stranger than fiction though seldom as popular.
The programme kicks off with a visit to Birmingham, Britain’s second city, where a company called Car Clamping Securities found a novel way to dupe people into paying huge clamping fees. It set up machines at selected sites offering all-day parking for £2.50, which seemed like a bargain basement price. One young lady who was in a hurry, put in coins to the value of £3 then went about her business, but returned to find her car wasn’t there, was informed she had bought only a £1 ticket, and was charged £295 to retrieve it.
Although the company thought it had hit on an ingenious swindle, a scam of this nature can run for so only long before the authorities get wind of it. The same thing happened to Mohammed Tariq, and when he went along to try to retrieve his car, he too was told that he had purchased only a £1 ticket, and would have to pay a further £315 before he could drive home.
When he spoke to the clamper, he gave him every opportunity to back down, but the man insisted no mistake had been made by the company. Unfortunately, they had made a mistake, a big one, because far from being another timid motorist who would simply cough up and drive home cursing under his breath, Mohammed Tariq was a trading standards officer. After seizing the ticket machine, the authorities were able to determine its mechanism had been doctored.
According to the Birmingham Post earlier this year, the kingpin of the operation, Steven Ryan, was gaoled for two and a half years after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud and controlling an article for the use of fraud.
If £315 is a rip off, how about £330,000? This is the price art collector David Smith agreed to pay for a painting by the renowned artist L.S. Lowry – who among other things inspired the Status Quo song Pictures Of Matchstick Men, according to the SongFacts database.
The owner of this particular “Lowry”, Lord Taylor – no, not that Lord Taylor! – had all the paperwork that proved it was genuine. Alas, although the paperwork was indeed genuine, the painting wasn’t. It was only after he had paid a £220,000 deposit that Mr Smith realised he’d been sold a fake. Well, it wasn’t quite a fake; it was actually painted as an “After Lowry”, ie as a painting in the style of Lowry by an honest artist. Taylor had bought it for as such for seven and a half thousand pounds, and his title for less than that. Although he was and is entitled to call himself Lord Taylor, this is a well-recognised scam. Many years ago a certain Reg Dwight changed his name legally to Elton John. This well known flamboyant and immensely talented singer-songwriter also has a middle name – Hercules, but that doesn’t make him the son of Zeus!
Lord Taylor was sentenced to three years in prison, and was ordered to pay £1.15 million compensation or serve a further ten years. David Smith then bought the “After Lowry painting” at auction for a mere £13,500.
From paying for art to paying for your education; according to a January 2006 press release, Dr Roselle Antoine was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for contributions to adult learning and community development. That much appears to be true; unfortunately, four years later she was convicted of ripping people off by selling them fake NVQs – which they believed they had earned. She had also lied about holding a doctorate, and had a nice sideline in immigration advice, something she was not permitted to give; she was eventually gaoled for eight months. In addition to this rather light sentence, she was ordered to compensate three of her victims, and pay £5,000 court costs. It remains to be seen if she did either.
This episode of Fake Britain can be found here for those who can download it; for those who can’t, watch out for it on YouTube.