Hovercraft Fraudster Peter Hulbert Nicked
At long last, a fraudster who claimed to be setting up a hovercraft racing venture has been jailed for nearly four years after trying to dupe the Welsh Government out of £625,000.
Peter Hulbert, 54, from Sheffield, had tried to convince the Welsh Government to back a scheme called F1 Hoverpod Ltd. He tried to cloak the good name of legitimate hovercraft manufacturer Hov Pod Hovercraft, and used their images and videos, and even tried to reverse engineer one of their hovercraft.
He used forged documents in an attempt to make officials believe he had financial backers based in New Jersey in the USA who had pledged £1m to the scheme which would see him build water-borne racers called Hoverpods in North Wales.
Hulbert, who changed his name by deed poll to Lord Peter Hulbert, was trying to get match-funding from the Welsh Government to back the manufacturing business he was proposing to set up in St Asaph, Denbighshire.
He met with Welsh Government officials during a “series of meetings” and was offered incentives like low rental rates for his proposed business.
Hulbert even set up fake phone numbers, websites and registered a company in the Isle of Man to try and build up the company’s facade.
But his fraud was uncovered when a Welsh Government official decided to try and ring the company – Berkley Surety Group LLC in New Jersey – which he claimed had promised to invest.
Detective Inspector Dave Runnalls, head of South Wales Police economic crime unit, told the Western Mail police were first tipped off towards the end of 2011.
He said: “He was proposing to set up a business manufacturing small racing hovercraft – that would have been in St Asaph, in North Wales.
“It was to set up his business, make his first Hoverpod, sell it, make a profit and so on from there.
“The scam was Hulbert needs to get match-funding. The government won’t pay in any money until he’s got significant financial backing, a certain amount or some other investor.
“He presents the government with a letter from Berkley Surety based in New Jersey in the United States purporting to be from them saying they are going to support him with £1m.
“That letter is a complete forgery and this is a fraud.”
In the letter Hulbert presented the Welsh Government, an executive manager by the name of S Harrison purportedly writes confirming investment in his business through a performance bond held and traded on a European trading platform.
The letter says: “Berkley Assurity Ltd will provide through our law firm a contract and proposal to invest a maximum of 1.126,400m euros (£1m) in the form of a performance bond to be used as a security against the development of the Hoverpod.
“For their part of the obligation, F1 Hoverpod Ltd will undertake and agree to an Intellectual Property Ownership Transfer for the duration of this contract.
“Berkley Assurity Ltd will underwrite the Invoices from the European Partners through our Bank in Europe and a letter of credit will be made available.”
The company does actually exist, headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey but had no such correspondence with Hulbert.
DI Runnalls added Hulbert had gone down a “considerable process” before his deceit was uncovered.
He said: “If you just didn’t do enough work, there’s a phone number on that letter. He set up that phone number. It does exist. If you ring it, it will go to him.
“There’s a fax number on it. That goes to him.
“He has tried to register a company in the Isle of Man. In that name, he’s taken some steps that if you did a scant check you could be conned.
“They (Welsh Government) were doing things like offering him low rent on business premises.
“What the government official did was ring the American company in New Jersey.
“It then became apparent it was a falsehood.”
The Welsh Government complained to police and this week, after originally pleading not guilty before then changing his plea to guilty, Hulbert was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court.
He was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison on Tuesday for attempting to defraud the Welsh Government out of £625,000.