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05 November 2020

North East dodgy fish fraudster 'plaiced' behind bars

Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Constabulary have helped the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigations Team put a fraudulent cold calling fish seller behind bars.  John Mills, aged 50 of Chester-le-Street was sentenced on Friday 30 October at Teesside Crown Court to 60 months in prison, reduced to 40 months for an early guilty plea.  

Mills was investigated by the North East Regional team for targeting elderly and vulnerable households when selling fish door to door across the country. He repeatedly used aggressive, unfair and dishonest selling practices across the country to force customers to buy large quantities of unwanted fish that was often unfit for human consumption.   He defrauded many homes out of a total of over £100,000 with 80 victims providing evidence for the investigation.

Mills was brought to the attention of Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Constabulary when he visited the county in early 2019 to continue his fraudulent sales tactics.  A joint local operation between Trading Standards and Cumbria Police resulted in Mills arrest and statements from his victims being obtained.

Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Constabulary supplied their evidence to the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigations Team to add even more weight to their case against Mills.

Victims described how Mills forced his way into their homes without permission and pressured them into paying extortionate prices for poor quality fish they didn’t want. Victims said they felt threatened when they said they couldn’t afford to pay or challenged the price.

Many of his victims had serious health conditions and were deliberately targeted by Mills in the belief that they were less likely to question the sale or complain.

Mills has also been issued with a Criminal Behaviour Order that prohibits him indefinitely from selling products and making unsolicited calls at people’s homes.

Cllr Celia Tibble, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, said:

“Our front doors are supposed to provide security and protection but for some criminals they are the perfect entrance through which to take advantage of those most at risk in our society. Rogue traders such as Mr Mills are not just cowardly criminals; they are also damaging the security and confidence of the elderly and vulnerable. This is why we have made doorstep crime a priority for Cumbria Trading Standards.

“This case should act as a warning to others. I am delighted to see that justice has been served for the aggressive and deceitful practices that this criminal pursued.”

Sergeant Chris Blain of Cumbria Police’s Carlisle Local Focus Hub added:

 "We work closely with our partners on a daily basis and we supported Trading Standards in their investigation into this fish seller.  A number of victims and family members were left traumatised by his actions.  We would like to thank those brave victims for coming forward and providing evidence. We appreciate how difficult it can be to deal with cold callers at the door but would like to remind residents to exercise caution and follow Trading Standards advice."

Cumbria Trading Standards advises residents:

  • To ‘Say No!’ to cold callers.
  • Do not let them into your home
  • and to report incidents to Trading Standards or Cumbria Police.

If you or someone you know, has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133 or to Cumbria Constabulary on 101.


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Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Constabulary have helped the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigations Team put a fraudulent cold calling fish seller behind bars.