Andy Pilley: what has happened so far in the fraud trial of the Fleetwood Town owner

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A complex fraud trial at Preston Crown Court in which Fleetwood Town boss Andy Pilley and three co-accused face allegations of mis-selling energy supplies is now into its fifth month.

The case first got under way in the Court 2 of Preston’s old Sessions House on October 11 last year and was initially expected to last until just after New Year. However, the case has faced several adjournments and after the latest one, evidence before the jury is expected to resume next week.

What are Andy Pilley and his co-defendants accused of?

Fleetwood Town FC owner Mr Pilley, 52, from Thornton, is accused of two counts of running a business with the intention of defrauding creditors, one count of false representation and one count of being concerned with the retention of criminal property. Mr Pilley’s sister, Michelle Davidson, 49, of Holmefield Avenue, Cleveleys faces two counts of running a business with the intention of defrauding creditors and one of being concerned with the retention of criminal property.

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Andy Pilley outside Preston Crown Court's Sessions HouseAndy Pilley outside Preston Crown Court's Sessions House
Andy Pilley outside Preston Crown Court's Sessions House

Lee Qualter, 52, of Holmefield Avenue, Cleveleys, faces one allegation of running a company with the intent to defraud. Joel Chapman, 38, of Kingston Road, Willerby, Yorkshire, who also had a Poulton address, is accused of aiding false representation by coercing staff to dupe customers. All four deny the allegations against them.

What has the jury heard so far in the Andy Pilley fraud trial?

The prosecution by Trading Standards North West follows a raid on BES offices by its officers and police in 2016 after complaints by customers. In an opening statement on October 11, prosecutors claimed that sales teams employed by Mr Pilley’s companies “routinely used false statements, misleading information and outright lies” to win sales – and that the companies involved made huge profits on the back of these sales techniques.

Prosecutor Andrew Thomas KC said that despite this, employees were not reprimanded or sacked by their bosses when this came to light – some were even promoted. At best, he said, the bosses turned a blind eye and it is they who face the court proceedings.

The victims were small business owners from all around the country, such as small shops, pubs, cafes and hairdressers. Mr Thomas also likened selling techniques at one of Mr Pilley’s firms to a dishonest used car sales approach.

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However, in a statement from Ms Davidson read out in court in December, she said the company took “the resolution of complaints seriously, weeding out any brokers who mis-sell.” Mr Pilley took the stand in January and described how a former employee - who cannot be named – "made a full-time job of slagging my business off".

He said "damaging" online posts by the former employee were seen by a disgruntled customer, who he says then went on to write more online posts, signposted to other people to complain, and claims the complaints sent to Trading Standards were "doctored". Mr Pilley said he worked transparently and with an "open door" with regulator Ofgem and that emails show BES tried to ensure compliance with Ofgem's rules.

When will the Andy Pilley fraud trial resume?

However, on February 17 the case was adjourned for almost a month, until March 13. It is understood the adjournment was agreed to benefit members of the jury, who had already sat through four months of a complex trial which had only just gone beyond the halfway point. And after just a week of court proceedings from March 13, proceedings were halted again after one of the defendants fell ill. Proceedings are expected to resume on Monday March 27.

How did Fleetwood Town FC boss Andy Pilley make his fortune?

Andy Pilley is best known as the owner and chairman of Fleetwood Town FC, a football club he dramatically transformed from a minor non league outfit with the barest of facilities to a club comfortably holding its own in League One, based in a fine modern football stadium. The club enjoyed five promotions in eight extraordinary years and has developed a community trust which is active in many ways across Fleetwood and Wyre.