|L - Barry Spencer R - Adrian Stanton|
The bosses of a private investigation company and their staff illegally 'blagged' sensitive information from utility companies, banks and other institutions on 1,900 occasions in just over a year, a jury were told today.
While hunting people who owed unpaid bills, community charges and other debts sensitive, personal information was extracted during a series of telephone calls from ICU Investigations Ltd on behalf of their 330 clients.
The company's director and sole shareholder Barry Spencer, 41, of Hook Common, Hook, Hampshire and former company secretary Adrian Stanton, 40, of Vicarage Road, Sunbury-on-Thames deny conspiring to illegally obtain information.
The company, of Legacy Centre, Hanworth Trading Estate, Hampton Road West, Feltham also deny the same summons brought under the Data Protection Act.
Prosecutor Mr. Ben Summers told the Isleworth Crown Court jury: "They would trick the people they were calling at utility companies and the television licensing authority etc into disclosing information that involved personal data.
"That information would be used to complete reports on people they were trying to trace and then sent to ICU's clients.
"This case is about blagging, getting information about people by deceiving others and both defendants and ICU were involved in this practise.
"All three agreed to systematically commit offences under the Data Protection Act as part of the business they provided as a tracing agent."
Companies contacted for information include Vision Express; npower; E.ON; British Gas as well as GP surgeries.
ICU clients include the Leeds Building Society; Brighton and Hove City Council and Mint Credit.
"During the period somewhere in the order of nineteen hundred separate offences were committed with blagging phone calls being made," explained Mr. Summer.
"Personal details were blagged out of the people who were contacted."
Five members of staff have already admitted the conspiracy and will be sentenced after the trial.
A favourite method employed was to call an organisation, posing as the person they were trying to trace, and confirm details such as addresses and contact numbers.
"The defendants were involved in agreeing these calls should be made and through them the company is also responsible.
"They ran and administered the company and its day to day operation.
"Telephone calls were routinely made that did breach the Data Protection Act because they were blagging information from people by misrepresenting who they were and what they were after."
ICU clients include law firms, insurance firms and local authorities chasing bad debts.
"It is inconceivable the offences could have been committed without Mr. Spencer and Mr. Stanton knowing what was going on," added Mr. Summers.
They have pleaded not guilty, along with the company, to conspiring to obtain data, without consent, between April 1, 2009 and May 13, 2010.
The trial is expected to last three weeks………..