Harrogate record seller escapes jail after scamming thousands from Royal Mail

York Crown Court
York Crown Court

A Harrogate record seller who scammed Royal Mail out of thousands of pounds has been sentenced to 12 months community service at York Crown Court.

John Cooper, 36, of High Street Starbeck, paid the Post Office to send albums and merchandise out in bulk for his business 'Pop Is What We Want'.

However, a court heard that Cooper deliberately and drastically underestimated his use of their service to reduce expenses as his business crumbled under debt.

Fraud investigators from the Royal Mail eventually spotted the discrepancies and Cooper was arrested for the scheme which would eventually cost the company more than £14,000.

Cooper appeared at York Crown Court on Monday, October 12, after admitting two counts of fraud between July 2014 and January this year.

Prosecuting barrister Sarah-Kate McIntyre said Cooper set up the music business about 10 years ago and initially there was a huge demand for his products.

However, the court heard his business deteriorated as more people turned to downloading music and, as a result, Cooper began to borrow more money.

Cooper employed family members, took on increasing amounts of stock and eventually built up a £16,500 overdraft in an attempt to turn the business's fortune around.

Mrs Proctor said: "He couldn’t believe how much it was. He set up the business when he was 25 and was clearly passionate about it.

"When the business started to lose money he built up debts with suppliers but continued to employ family members.

“He now thinks it was incredibly stupid and inexplicable. He should have shut the business down when the (traditional record-selling) market took a downturn.”

Mrs Proctor said that Cooper, known for his charitable work, continued to use the Royal Mail service to deliver items in bulk, but fraudulently altered figures to reduce his expenditure.

Cooper contacted the Post Office immediately after his crime was discovered and repaid more than £830 with a view to paying the full amount back eventually.

Following his arrest, Mrs Proctor revealed that Cooper had suffered from anxiety and depression and was now working in a Harrogate factory on a low wage.

Judge Stephen Ashurst said he accepted Cooper had been under mounting financial pressures due to the “bottom falling out” of the traditional record-selling business.

He said he had also taken note of testimonies from friends and family describing Cooper as generous and the “life and soul of the party” when times were good.

Mr Ashurst said he could steer away from a prison sentence because of Cooper’s low risk of reoffending and his deteriorating mental health. Instead, Cooper was given a 12-month community order with 180 hours’ unpaid work.

Mr Ashurst postponed compensation proceedings for three months to give Cooper time to find better-paid work and reschedule his debts.