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SFO secures over £434K for victims of solar panel fraudsters

21 January, 2020 | Case Updates

Two men who were part of a group that defrauded investors, many of whom were elderly and some who parted with their hard earned savings, have now been ordered to pay back £434,835.73 to those they swindled or face additional time in prison.

Kenneth Reid, 61, and Niall Hastie, 55, were ordered to pay back £18,869.93 and £2,759.70 respectively within three months or face a further sentence of two years in prison on top of the three-and-a-half years each individual is currently serving. Their co-conspirators Robert Ross and Stephen Wilson were ordered to pay £193,206.10 and £220,000, respectively, in November 2019.  All of the money from the orders will be paid back in compensation to their victims.

The four men were found guilty in August 2018 along with Ludovic Black and his brother David Diaz and all were given prison sentences.  The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecuted each individual in relation to the activities of Manchester-based Solar Energy Savings Limited. The group’s scam defrauded hundreds of victims over 2years and netted £17 million including from elderly, retired and vulnerable people.  They used some of the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included buying expensive cars, and luxury overseas holidays.

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, said:

“These men operated a sophisticated scheme to scam people out of money they had worked a lifetime to earn.

“The SFO is committed to stripping criminals like these fraudsters of their ill-gotten gains and securing compensation for aggrieved victims. We work tirelessly to ensure that crime doesn’t pay.”

At their sentencing in October 2018 all six men were disqualified from being company directors for a period of between 6 and 10 years. 

The scheme involved selling and installing residential solar panels with the incentive that any extra energy that was generated could be sold by the victims to the national grid under a government feed-in tariff scheme (FiT) and provide them with an extra income. The victims were told that they would be reimbursed with up to 100% of the cost of the installation after five years so effectively it would cost them nothing to sign up.

In reality they manipulated their victims by using deceitful sales techniques, outright lies, and false guarantees of reimbursement to misrepresent the offer and maximise their sales, which led to victims losing between £600 and £35,000 each.

The confiscation and compensation orders were made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The order against Reid and Hastie concludes the SFO’s investigation. Ludovic Black is appealing his conviction.

Notes to editors:

  1. Kenneth Reid (DOB 30/06/1958) and Niall Hastie (DOB 28/05/1964) were former directors of Capital Blueprint Limited, a company that introduced finance providers to commercial businesses and in particular, Solar Energy Savings Limited.
  2. In August 2018 the six men were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, contrary to s1(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and s1(2)(a) of the Fraud Act 2006. In October 2018 they were sentenced as follows:
    • Ludovic Black: 7 years and 6 months for the fraud offence and a consecutive sentence of 2 months for a bail offence.
    • David Diaz: 6 years and 6 months for the fraud offence and a consecutive sentence of 2 months for a bail offence.
    • Stephen Wilson: 4 years and 6 months for the fraud offence.
    • Robert Ross: 4 years and 6 months for the fraud offence.
    • Niall Hastie: 3 years and 6 months for the fraud offence.
    • Kenneth Reid: 3 years and 6 months for the fraud offence.
    • Another individual, Gary McVey, was found not guilty of the same offence. More information about the previous confiscation orders in this case can be found on the SFO website here.  More information about the SFO’s case against the fraudsters can be found here.
  3. The trial and confiscation hearings all took place at Liverpool Crown Court. HHJ Warnock handed down these latest two confiscation orders late yesterday (20 January 2020).
  4. By recovering the proceeds of crime and securing fines from companies, the SFO has delivered a net financial impact of +£450m from 2015 to 2019 (SFO Annual Report 2018/19).

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