Fleetwood Town owner Andy Pilley accused of fraud and money laundering and appears in court in Blackpool
Fleetwood Town's owner and chairman Andy Pilley appeared before Blackpool Magistrates' Court this morning after being charged with fraud and money laundering offences allegedly involving his energy firm.
The 51-year-old's sister, who also works for Business Energy Solutions (BES), faces similar charges, which followed an eight-year investigation by Trading Standards.
Prosecutor Denise Breen-Lawton told the court the "victims" of his alleged "multi-million pound fraud" were "small businesses".
Mr Pilley, of Thornton, who has guided Fleetwood from obscurity into League One, runs BES, which is the club's main sponsor.
He is accused of running a business with the intention of defrauding creditors or others by allowing the fraudulent mis-selling of energy supply contracts.
He is further charged with money laundering, allowing fraudulent mis-selling by sales representatives, and being concerned with the retention of criminal property - specifically the proceeds from the mis-sold contracts.
Mr Pilley, who strongly denied any wrongdoing, faces a final charge of fraud relating to allegations he fabricated content about his own company's successes on websites like MoneySavingExpert.com, Inspired Energy, and EnergiSave.
Lee Qualter, 51, of Holmefield Avenue, Cleveleys, faces one allegation of running a company with the intent to defraud.
Mr Pilley's sister Michelle Davidson, 48, also of Holmefield Avenue, faces the same charge.
A fourth defendant, Joel Chapman, 37, of Kingston Road, Willerby, Yorkshire, is accused of aiding false representation by coercing staff to dupe customers.
He is also charged with intending a customer to cause a loss or be at risk of loss.
Prosecutors successfully applied for the case, which is expected to last for three months, to be heard at Preston Crown Court.
Mr Pilley, Mr Chapman, and Ms Davidson gave no indication of a plea.
Mr Qualter pleaded not guilty.
All were bailed to appear at the higher court on Wednesday, October 20.
It is thanks to our loyal readers that we can continue to provide the trusted news, analysis and insight that matters to you. For unlimited access to our unrivalled local reporting, you can take out a subscription here and help support the work of our dedicated team of reporters.