• Michael Wild & Robert Holly conned elderly people around York
  • They raked in thousands of pounds
  • Their company was a fraud from the start
  • Wild lied about his qualifications and the law
  • Their scam unravelled after an exposé by The Press
  • Both fraudsters now face jail

TWO fraudsters who targeted elderly people in and around York have been told to prepare for jail. 

Michael John Wild, 52, and Robert Henry Holly, 44, raked in more than £30,000 by conning customers out of hundreds of pounds each with false claims about the law, and either didn't provide the services they said they would or provided worthless documents, prosecution barrister Glenn Parsons told Leeds Crown Court. Holly disputes the figure.

Wild and Holly ran a quasi-legal and financial scam through their business Yorkshire Asset Protection (YAP).

But after The Press ran an exposé about YAP, the business folded and scores of customers, mostly elderly, revealed to trading standards officers how they had been defrauded over wills, powers of attorneys, funeral plan purchases and property protection trusts.

"They were wholly incapable of giving this type of advice and doing this kind of work for vulnerable people," Mr Parsons said. 

At Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday, a jury convicted both of fraud and consumer law offences at the end of a three-week trial prosecuted by City of York Council

Yorkshire Asset Protection claimed it could help couples ensure that their affairs would be properly managed in the event of them going into care, dying, or otherwise becoming incapable of managing their finances. 

Instead it exposed them to the risk of losing public money support they could otherwise have received, Leeds Crown Court heard.

On at least one occasion, Michael John Wild claimed outright, falsely, that he was a solicitor, and he left other couples with the impression that he was a solicitor. In reality, he had no formal legal training or qualifications. 

Wild, of Rawdon Avenue in Tang Hall, and Robert Henry Holly, of South Street in Cleethorpes, were convicted of participating in a fraudulent business through their involvement in YAP and engaging in illegal commercial practice over the provision of wills, powers of attorney and property protection trusts.

Wild was also convicted of falsely representing that the Government was changing the law, a charge on which Holly was acquitted, and Wild was convicted of falsely representing that he was a solicitor. Both men had denied all charges.  

Recorder Jeremy Barnett told both men to get ready for jail and adjourned sentence until June 24 so they could put their affairs in order. Both were released on bail. 

It was the second time both men were involved in a business that defrauded the elderly over their wills. Both worked for Minster Legal Associates (MLA) of York, which closed down in 2011. A City of York Council trading standards investigation into its activities had led to Wild being convicted of persuading elderly couples to hand over money by making false claims that the Government was about to change the law over care fees. Holly was not prosecuted.

Three months later in February 2012, Wild and Holly started YAP which the jury decided was a fraud from the start. They heard it had fictitious staff and a fictitious legal department. 

Wild persuaded elderly people to set up property protection trusts with the same false claims that he had used with MLA customers. 

He did so despite being told by trading standards officers before YAP started that his claims were wrong and against the law. 

The jury at Leeds Crown Court heard, if YAP customers set up the trusts as sold by the two fraudsters, they was exposing themselves to the risk of losing a public money subsidy for their care fees that they would otherwise have been entitled to and could have to fund all their care fees themselves.   

Throughout YAP's existence, Wild was on bail awaiting trial for his criminal activities at MLA. For some of his time at MLA he was awaiting sentence for a £10,000 credit card and identity fraud.   

Holly was the main man who created wills, powers of attorney and property protection trusts.  The jury heard how some customers never got the documents they had ordered and some received powers of attorney that were useless because YAP never registered them and some of the trusts were wrongly set up or never registered.

When customers complained, they were fobbed off by a series of messages that their complaint would be referred on, phones and email addresses wouldn’t work and letters weren’t answered. 

YAP had a short-term lease on offices in New Street and when, after a few months it moved out, Holly set up a mailbox as its main “office”  but the mailbox provider had difficulty getting him to pay and after a few weeks he didn’t collect letters from it, leaving more than 20 behind.   

How the YAP story unfolded:

York Press:

WIDOW Lynda Madden says justice has finally been done, almost three years after Yorkshire Asset Protection left her facing a bill for thousands of pounds for her husband's funeral.

She said it was thanks to The Press and York's trading standards department that Robert Holly and Michael Wild had been exposed, investigated, prosecuted and convicted, and were now both facing jail sentences.

The Press revealed in August 2013 that Mrs Madden and her husband Noel had paid the financial services firm £6,500 for funeral plans for Noel and herself after he had become terminally ill.

"Noel wanted to ensure I didn’t have the additional stress of having to pay for the funeral when he died," she said then.

She claimed the firm had assured them the plan would be backed by a national funeral plan company and it would give them ‘complete peace of mind’ by paying for Noel’s funeral at a fixed cost.

Instead, when he died from cancer, she was left picking up the total bill for more than £3,000 after discovering the firm’s offices in New Street had closed down and staff had stopped answering the phone.

She was also concerned about the fate of will documents and house deeds which she and her husband had also lodged with YAP for safekeeping, Wild visited The Press after our initial report to complain bitterly that his reputation had been unfairly maligned.

On hearing on Tuesday that he and Holly had been convicted and faced imprisonment, Mrs Madden said: "It's brilliant. Justice has been done, and it's thanks to trading standards, who've been absolutely great, and The Press.

"If the paper hadn't revealed what had happened, other victims wouldn't have come forward and some might have been completely in the dark until their loved ones had died, and they suddenly discovered their funeral plan or will was completely worthless."

She said she was fortunate in that Holly had eventually given her back her money, although she had been worried where he had got it from.

Mrs Madden called for tighter regulations to prevent anyone without any legal training to set themselves up as a will-writing firm or funeral plan broker, and urged people to check such firms were legitimate before they handed over any personal documents or money.