Crooks in court over electric devices 'that defied laws of physics'
Three Co Armagh businessmen who sold hundreds of fake "electricity saving devices" have narrowly avoided going to jail.
Customers were charged between £200 and £7,500 for the devices which Trading Standards say amounted to "little more than pieces of plastic".
The company targeted farmers, sponsoring farming youth events and marketing itself at the National Ploughing Association Championships in 2012, which draws in thousands of farmers from across Ireland.
The three businessmen - who traded as Electricity Saver Ireland - were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the public in Newry Crown Court on Wednesday.
Gary John McGeown, John Paul McGeown and Peter Doran all pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud consumers and businesses.
The firm operated from Abbey Street in Armagh.
They were sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for three years for their role in selling and supplying bogus electricity saving devices.
Richard Knipe from the Trading Standards Service said: "The laws of physics would have to be rewritten for these devices to have worked in the manner claimed by the defendants."
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Wilson from the PSNI's economic crime unit welcomed the sentencing.
"The victims in this case were the loyal customers of Electricity Saver Ireland who handed over their hard-earned money for these fake devices which claimed to reduce electricity bills by 25%," he said.
"In reality, the devices were found to result in a maximum saving of 0.8% and in some cases actually used 1% more electricity when installed."
However, the defendants managed to persuade their customers that there was a "science" behind how the devices worked and that they would save them money.
Devices were supplied to farmers, bars, restaurants and even nightclubs.
The court heard the defendants had been reckless and had failed to carry out any independent tests on the devices which had been manufactured in India. Between 2009 and 2013, the firm turned over £275,000 in sales.
Anyone affected should contact Trading Standards Service's Consumerline for advice on 0300 123 6262.