MERSEYSIDE MPs have put pressure on authorities investigating the alleged Wirral conman who offered non-existent £34,000-a-year jobs through a government jobcentre.
John Sothern advertised positions in a child-counselling company through Birkenhead Jobcentre Plus and interviewed candidates in their offices before Christmas.
The ECHO has since revealed allegedly fraudulent activities across the north west with countless victims who have spoken of being left unemployed and out-of-pocket.
In some cases people quit jobs, handed over their bank details or paid cash to work with or for Sothern’s “sham” businesses, which include counselling and publishing firms.
A criminal investigation was subsequently launched by Lancashire Police and the Government department that manages the jobcentre has faced sharp criticism.
But with evidence of potentially fraudulent activity in the last fortnight, MPs have stepped up the pressure on police and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to act. Angela Eagle, the Labour representative for Wallasey, has written to the Chief Constable of Lancashire Police to be kept informed of their progress and any action they may take.
Ms Eagle said: “I share the anger of my constituents and others from across Merseyside who have been disgracefully conned with the promise of a job that never existed.
“I have contacted Lancashire Police who tell me that a criminal investigation is underway and I have asked to be kept fully up to date with its progress.
“I hope the person responsible for this fraudulent enterprise is caught quickly and brought to task because their actions have not only caused financial loss to people, they have caused much upset and distress.”
MP Frank Field, who represents Birkenhead, has also renewed demands for a public inquiry and encouraged Merseyside Police to join the investigation.
He added: “I’m pleased other MPs are taking up the cudgels on this.
“Each fresh piece of emerging evidence intensifies the need for an urgent investigation.”
Mark Tami MP, who has spoken in support of Mr Field’s inquiry, has also written to Iain Duncan Smith to request an internal investigation within the DWP.
He said: “We have raised this issue with ministers as well as with the jobcentre.
“To be honest I am rather concerned that they have washed their hands of it at a time when fraudulent activity appears to be common around jobcentre adverts.”
Melanie Kenny, 55, was one of the prospective employees at Options 4 Families and lost more than £1,000 in earnings after quitting her old job.
She said: “We have been in touch with solicitors and we are considering what action we can take to take to try to receive compensation.”
A Lancashire police spokeswoman said an investigation was ongoing.