Fleetwood Town owner Andy Pilley has made his first appearance in Crown Court to strongly deny allegations of fraud and money laundering charges involving his energy business.
Mr Pilley, 51, of Thornton, is accused of mis-selling energy supply contracts through his firm, Business Energy Solutions (BES), and posting fake customer comments online.
His sister, Michelle Davidson, 48, who also works for BES, faces similar charges following an eight-year investigation by Trading Standards.
This morning at Preston Crown Court, a lawyer indicated that the Fleetwood Town chairman, whose energy business is the club’s main sponsor, would plead not guilty to four charges, should the case not be dismissed in due course.
Fleetwood Town boss Andy Pilley
He stands accused of two counts of running a business with the intention of defrauding creditors or others by allowing the fraudulent mis-selling of energy supply contracts.
He also stands accused of allowing fraudulent mis-selling by sales representatives, and being concerned with the retention of criminal property – specifically the proceeds from the mis-sold contracts.
His trial, which will begin on a date to be announced, with the earliest possible date being October 2022, is expected to last three months.
Ms Davidson, of Holmefield Avenue, Cleveleys, will also stand trial, facing one charge of running a company with the intent to defraud.
Lee Qualter, 51, also of Holmefield Avenue, faces the same charge.
Joel Chapman, 37, of Kingston Road, Willerby, Yorkshire, faces two charges of aiding false representation, and intending a customer to cause a loss or be at risk of loss.
All four defendants will remain on while awaiting trial.
Mr Laidlaw, defending Pilley, Davidson and Chapman, called on Judge Knowles to fix a date for the hearing at the earliest possible opportunity.
He said: “From the perspective of the defendants, this investigation now enters its eighth year. We have people of good character and their reputations are at stake. With one exception, they provide work within the towns where they are employed. A good deal turns upon the decisions that we would hope be made by a judge at some point early next year, and to hear that this case would simply fall to the wayside would be a deeply distressing message to hear.”
Judge Knowles told the defendants: “I’m sorry that I’m not giving you a date for your trial today, or arranged for the applications that you wish to make to stay proceedings or have charges dismissed to be heard. I do understand the distress and anxiety that you feel and no doubt you will have had today fixed in your mind. But me overarching concern is that we get a trial date which will hold at the earliest possible date, and that’s why I’m not giving a trial date today.”