The owner of a former Hilton, England, self-storage business has been sentenced to three years and 10 months in jail for defrauding more than £250,000 from businesses and individuals. Marcus Elliot, 26, was a partner in Hilton Self-Storage Ltd. and devised a scheme in which he leased shipping containers from other self-storage businesses under the guise that he’d rented them to the public. Instead, he sold them outright on eBay and kept the cash to pay for a rich lifestyle, according to the source.
Elliot defrauded his container suppliers for nearly £132,000, including £36,989 from Grand View UK Ltd., £17,435 from Mr. Box and £77,525 from Spacewise UK Ltd. He took more than £120,703 from individuals who paid for the containers but never received them. In total, he stole £252,653, according to authorities.
“He was selling the units online for something in the region of £2,000 each through a company he set up called MyContainer.co.uk using eBay and online auction sites,” prosecutor Nadia Silva said during court proceedings. “Customers would buy the containers from him, and he simply would not deliver them. He even used the same invoice number on eight different transactions; and when people contacted him asking where their units were, he would give excuses such as there being an unprecedented demand or transportation difficulties.”
Elliot use the money to fuel a lavish lifestyle traveling the world, buying expensive speedboats, eating lavish meals and buying the company of an escort, the source reported. When one of his container suppliers alerted authorities he had stopped making monthly payments, they discovered he had fled to South America, the source reported.
Between September 2012 and January 2013, Elliot spent £73,000 on foreign travel, purchased a speedboat that he crashed and abandoned, and paid £28,000 to an escort who accompanied him to South America, according to investigators.
He was arrested when he returned to the United Kingdom last year and admitted guilt to four counts of fraud between January 2012 and March 2014. Digital images recovered after Elliot’s arrest show him living lavishly, including photos of him on the boat, boxes of expensive cigars, a Playboy membership card and “stacks of bank notes,” Silva said.
“You were the director, you were the organizer and this was fraudulent from the outset. It went on for a long period of time, and there were a large number of victims,” sentencing judge Jonathan Bennett told Elliot in court. “One of your victims leased 100 units to you, and when you stopped paying him the monthly rent of them, he visited Hilton where there were only 29, as you had sold the others. He was expecting to see 100 units and you could not be found. In fact, no one could find you after that because you gallivanted off to South America with someone and [had] the time of your life on their money.”
Sharon Rimell, sales manager for Spacewise, indicated she lost money to Elliot and was betrayed by his actions. “I got to know him and like him. He put time into creating a business friendship between us, but then abused the trust that I placed in him to commit this fraud,” she told the court. “I have been there every step of the way over the past three years. I almost lost my job. I lost money and spent time at weekends with my husband’s help searching for lost units. Even today, he has displayed complete arrogance towards me and has never once apologized for what he has done to me.”
Elliot’s former business partner, Dave Billings, wasn’t a suspect in the case. “When I met up with Marcus, it seemed the perfect partnership; I would supply the land, Marcus would supply the containers and we would run the company, Hilton Self Storage Ltd., together,” Billings told the court. “It all went well to start with, and the business was gradually building up, until I got concerned about some of his spending habits. The decision was made to let him carry on with the business and just rent the land to him, which seemed the only option I had with it being on my land.”
Billings has since resumed full control of the self-storage business under the new name Hilton Storage Ltd., the source reported.