Ian Simpson, 57, of London Road, Hailsham, was given a 20 month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday, December 21.
Simpson, a director for Panda Yummy Food Ltd, Panda Yummy Noodle Bars Ltd and Panda Yummy Delivered, pleaded guilty to six charges relating to franchises offered to investors.
As well as a suspended sentence, Simpson was disqualified from being a company director for 15 years and is subject to a curfew for five months between 10pm and 5am.
The case centred around six victims who, between them, paid out a total £23,272 for franchises with Simpsons’ companies.
Four of the victims responded to an advert for a franchise opportunity with Panda Yummy Noodle Bars Ltd, paying a total of £6,704. The advert offered a guaranteed return of £25,000 to £50,000 a year for a franchise selling Halal chicken breasts to retail food outlets.
Two of the victims invested a total of £16,568 into a second business advertised by Simpson – Panda Yummy Delivered, a franchise opportunity involving oriental takeaway food. Trading standards have been contacted by at least five additional victims who invested very large sums of money into the Panda Yummy Delivered franchise, ranging from £12,000 to nearly £40,000 each, leading to a total loss of more than £100,000.
None of the investors are believed to have seen a return on their money and all were offered a series of excuses for the delays. When asked for refunds, Simpson paid back £70 to one investor but the others have not received any refund at all.
“Simpson tricked his victims into paying for something he was not in a position to deliver and rather than doing the right thing and returning the money, he has left at least six people thousands of pounds out of pocket,” said Cllr Chris Dowling, lead member for community services at East Sussex County Council.
“Thanks to the hard work of our Trading Standards officers, Simpson has been charged and admitted his guilt, and for his victims there is the possibility of having their money returned.”
Simpson was given a 20 month custodial sentence suspended for two years – including four months for four consumer protection offences, 10 months for one count of fraudulent trading and ten months for unauthorised use of a trademark. All sentences will run concurrently.
East Sussex County Council will be seeking compensation for all six victims in this case and a confiscation hearing is set to take place in June this year.