Company customers told firm had changed its name, fraud trial jury hears

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Two employees at a Colchester engineering firm standing trial for fraud told customers the company had changed its name to the new business they had set up, a jury heard.

Before Ipswich Crown Court are Ian Pratt and Gareth Pye, who were 'trusted" members of staff at Paragon Stainless Products.

The Colchester-based company makes stainless steel products including equipment for site refurbishments for McDonald's fast-food restaurants around the country.

Both Pratt and Pye are accused of abusing their sales positions at Paragon by trying to poach customers in the weeks before they left the company in January 2017.

The court heard the pair's actions paved the way for their new firm - called ISG - to be set up.

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Giving evidence from the witness box on Wednesday was John Baker, company director at Paragon.

He told the jury that Pratt and Pye were "trusted points of contact" for the business.

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Mr Baker, a company director since 2013, said Paragon began to hear from customers in January 2017 regarding orders which had not been seen by the company.

Mr Baker told the jury the original orders had come to Paragon.

One customer told Paragon she had been told by Pye that the company had changed its name to ISG, the court heard.

"This was the first time we heard about it," Mr Baker said.

"But we heard from other customers that they had been told the same."

The pair are also accused of creating an email address, obtaining technical drawings and persuading customers to give business to their new company.

Mr Baker told the jury about one occasion when Paragon was told via email the company had lost an order to "you know who".

He said: "Someone must have had our design drawings and prices to know what to offer them."

Pratt, 62, of Warren Lane, Martlesham Heath, and Pye, 49, of Berechurch Road, Colchester, have denied fraud.

Matthew Kirk, prosecuting, previously told the jury that prior to the alleged fraud there had been conflict between the company's two directors and the business had been experiencing a period of uncertainty.

The trial, which is expected to last around a week, continues.

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