Shopkeeper Jailed for £20k Direct Debit Fraud

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Jailed for a Total of 23 Months

A crooked shopkeeper who awarded himself a £20,000 refund by reversing debit payments made to a newspaper supplier has been jailed following an investigation by a specialist fraud squad at West Midlands Police.

Sri Lankan national Sivapiragasam Sellakkannan who ran several stores across Coventry – reclaimed the lump sum payment through his bank having claimed a financial dispute with Smiths News Trading Plc.

In February 2012, just days before the refund fraud, he changed his name to Krishnakumar Sivapragasam to dodge civil recovery action and managed to evade capture for more than two years.

But the 31-year-old was stopped by West Midlands Police officers in his Mercedes van on 8 March this year on the A38M en route to a wholesaler – and mobile fingerprint scanners revealed he was on the run.

He admitted defrauding Smiths News to the tune of £20,880.72 and another fraud in 2010 when he stole around £7,000 from money transfer company Western Union but skipped court on the eve of sentencing.

But at Birmingham Crown Court Sellakkannan, from Cheveral Avenue in Coventry, was jailed for a total of 23 months.

Investigating officer DC Chris Aldridge, from West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “He changed his name three times via Deed Poll between 2010 and 2012; the supplier tried contacting him using the name Sellakkannan but drew a blank having not realised he officially had a new identity.

“In interview he tried claiming he was in dispute with the supplier and was due a refund of around £2,800 – but his bank said they would have to refund the total sum of his direct debit payments.

“In reality, though, this was a calculated fraud and one for which he’s now paid for by losing his liberty.”

Under the business name Coventry Convenience Stores Sellakkannan ran Lifestyle Extra, in Sunbury Road, Whitley; Nisa Local in Albany Road, Earlsdon; Day One Convenience Store in Keresley Road, Radford; and Hillfields takeaway Chicken Express in King William Street.

Smiths News began supplying papers and magazines to his Sunbury Road newsagents in 2009 and, in February 2012, received an application to transfer direct debit accounts to the name Krishnakumar Sivapiragasam.

Company accountants assumed the shop had changed hands – but on 6 March they got a BACS (Banking Automated Clearing Services) notification that two refund claims had been made by Coventry Convenience Stores totalling almost £21,000.

DC Aldridge, added: “Sellakkannan has been declared bankrupt and the money hasn’t been recovered. However, the supplier has placed a charge against his house through the Land Registry which means they can reclaim the cash should the house be sold.”

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