UK & World News
Former Lib Dem Candidate Guilty Of Fraud
A former Liberal Democrat candidate for Parliament has been found guilty of 25 counts of fraud at Coventry Crown Court following a Sky News investigation.
Dr Vincent McKee, 56, used his national tutorial agency, ICUT, to get clients' credit and debit card details, then he systematically raided their accounts.
Some of the fraud against students took place when he was running for election to become MP for Coventry North West in 2010, while campaigning against tuition fees.
In 2010, Sky News interviewed numerous defrauded parents and students who claimed McKee overcharged them after they had arranged private lessons through his network of tutors.
In December 2010, a Sky journalist posed as a client and arranged a £60 lesson with one of McKee's tutors in London. Three days later, McKee had withdrawn £328.50 from Sky's account.
The next day, he attempted to take a further £225, but Sky had blocked the card.
This first investigation, broadcast in January 2011 in which McKee denied the allegations, led to him losing his membership of the Liberal Democrat party.
Shortly afterwards, he began trading under a new company name, University and Academy Tutors (UAT). He also started using a pseudonym, Patrick Murray.
A second Sky investigation, two months later, found he was still taking money from students' bank accounts without authorisation.
Sky passed the evidence to Coventry Trading Standards and, in September 2011, he was charged with 34 counts of fraud totalling nearly £30,000.
During a six-week trial, witnesses travelled from across the UK to give evidence. The jury heard McKee tried to intimidate customers who asked for their money back.
The Coventry Telegraph reported that Nigerian Student Afolabi Oyedeji recorded a conversation in which McKee told him to: "F*** off back to where you came from," adding: "You may do that in Nigeria, we don't do that in Britain."
Ben Mills, prosecuting, asked Mr Oyedeji in the witness box: "You were asking for a refund. Did you think that was a satisfactory response?"
McKee blamed misunderstandings, bad record-keeping and other staff for taking money by mistake while he was ill. He described the Sky investigation as a "horrible onslaught", according to the paper.
Two Sky journalists also gave evidence in the trial and Sky's recorded calls were played in court. In one call, McKee suggested someone must have broken into his office, when explaining how money had been taken from our account and put into his.
Two weeks into the trial, McKee pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of Breach of Professional Diligence.
In the witness box, he admitted responsibility for the "mess" and failures at his company, but he denied dishonesty.
He had also pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice - allegedly providing falsified copies of written agreements with students to investigators at Trading Standards.
McKee insisted he had been entrapped by Sky News. In a statement, he said: "Mr Farrell's actions smacked of an attempt at devious entrapment that never quite came off in the way he intended."
Coventry Trading Standards has revealed they had their first complaints against McKee in May 2008.
But despite repeated warnings, McKee's practise of overcharging continued in 2009 and escalated through 2010, when he unsuccessfully ran for Parliament to become a Liberal Democrat MP.
Two television investigations and subsequent criminal charges in 2011 failed to stop him defrauding students.
In August 2012, just one month before the trial began, Sky was contacted by another customer who claimed he had been overcharged.
Many students have been unable to get their money back.