Fraud Charges (Finally!) Brought Against Gary Bolton, Jim McCormick, and Four Other UK Manufactures of Fake Bomb Detectors

Last week, the UK finally brought criminal charges against Jim McCormick, of ATSC, Ltd., for his role in the manufacturing and distribution of his worthless “bomb detectors.” These devices — the ADE-651, ADE-650, and ADE-101 are the three ‘products’ identified in the charges — are composed of nothing more than an empty plastic casing with an antenna glued into one end, but they are sold to governments worldwide under the absurd promise that the devices can detect drugs, bombs, guns, and diamonds at miraculous distances.

Although in 2010 the UK finally banned the sale of these devices to Iraq and Afghanistan — where they were endangering the lives of UK service members — in the two years since that ban went into effect, sales of fake bomb detectors have continued unabated to other countries around the world, including Mexico and Thailand.

Still, even if the criminal charges against McCormick are long overdue, it is a promising sign that the UK is finally taking some sort of tangible action against these charlatans:

Avon and Somerset Police have confirmed that a 55-year-old man, who lives in Somerset, will face six charges under the Fraud Act (2006).

The decision to charge James McCormick from Langport, follows consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service’s Central Fraud Division..

This charging decision follows a complex 30-month international investigation led by Avon and Somerset Police.

Mr McCormick will appear at the City of London Magistrates’ Court, Queen Victoria Street, London tomorrow Thursday July 12 2012

He will face six charges:

1 James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, had in his possession or under his control an article for use in the course of or in connection with a fraud, namely an ADE 101 device. Contrary to section 6 Fraud Act 2006

2.        James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, had in his possession or under his control an article for use in the course of or in connection with a fraud, namely an ADE 650 device. Contrary to section 6 Fraud Act 2006

3.        James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, had in his possession or under his control and article for use in the course of or in connection with a fraud, namely an ADE 651 device. Contrary to section 6 Fraud Act 2006.

4.        James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, made or adapted, supplied or offered to supply an article, namely an ADE 101 device, knowing that it was designed or adapted for use in the course of or in connection with, or intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of fraud. Contrary to section 7 Fraud Act 2006

5.        James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, made or adapted, supplied or offered to supply an article, namely an ADE 650 device, knowing that it was designed or adapted for use in the course of or in connection with, or intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of fraud. Contrary to section 7 Fraud Act 2006

6.        James William McCormick, between 15 January 2007 and 12 July 2012, made or adapted, supplied or offered to supply an article, namely an ADE 651 device, knowing that it was designed or adapted for use in the course of or in connection with, or intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of fraud. Contrary to section 7 Fraud Act 2006

The good news didn’t even stop there — the day after the charges were announced against McCormick, the City of London police’s Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OACU) followed suit, by finally bringing criminal charges against five other individuals who have long been active in the fake bomb detector trade:

Gary Bolton faces two counts contrary to sections 2 and 7 of the Fraud   Act 2006, relating to a device called ‘GT200’, which it is alleged was dishonestly represented as capable of detecting explosives.

Samuel Tree, Joan Tree, and Simon Sherrard have each been charged with one count contrary to Section 7 of the Fraud Act 2006, involving an ‘Alpha 6’ substance detection device.

Anthony Williamson faces the same charge in relation to an ‘XK9’ device.

Simon Sherrard faces an additional count contrary to Section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006 for possession of an Alpha 6 substance detection device for use in a fraud.

On July 11 Avon and Somerset Constabulary charged James McCormick with three counts contrary to section 6 and three counts contrary to section 7 of the Fraud Act 2006, relating to three devices, known as ‘ADE 101’, ‘ADE 650’ and ‘ADE 651’. He appears before City of London Magistrates on July 12.

Sadly, Carly Wickens, Bolton’s girlfriend and owner of the shipping company which was used to transport the fake bomb detectors is not among those charged. But at their appearances before the magistrate last week all of the accused plead not guilty, save for Gary Bolton, who deferred a plea awaiting sight of prosecution files. It appears that further activity in the case will not take place until September.

Most of the charges against the six individuals were brought under Section 7 of the UK’s Fraud Act (2006). That provision of the Act specifically  prohibits “making or supplying articles for use in frauds”:

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply any article—

(a)knowing that it is designed or adapted for use in the course of or in connection with fraud, or

(b)intending it to be used to commit, or assist in the commission of, fraud.

James McCormick was also charged under Section 6 of the Act, for “possession … of articles for use in frauds”:

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he has in his possession or under his control any article for use in the course of or in connection with any fraud.

Gary Bolton was the only defendant charges with actually committing fraud, pursuant to Section 2 of the Act, for fraud by false representation:

(1)A person is in breach of this section if he—

(a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and

(b)intends, by making the representation—

(i)to make a gain for himself or another, or

(ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

I do wonder if the bulk of the charges were brought under Articles 6 and 7 of the Fraud Act due to the nature of the particular distribution scheme used by the defendants. For the most part, it appears that the GT-200, the ADE-651, the Alpha 6, and all of the other bogus devices, were sold not to unwitting customers who had been scammed into believing that these useless products actually worked. Instead, the fake bomb detectors were primarily sold to foreign governments through special arrangements made with corrupt foreign officials. In most cases, it is likely the officials were well aware that the devices did not perform as advertised, but rather arranged for their governments to purchase the devices in exchange for multi-million dollar kickbacks.

This means, for example, that the $10,000,000 USD spent by Thailand on the GT-200 did not entirely go into Gary Bolton’s pockets, although certainly many millions of it did. But the overhead for Bolton’s business consisted largely of bribes and kickbacks as opposed to parts and inventory. The devices themselves cost pennies to manufacture — instead, it was the bribes paid by ATSC, Ltd. and Global Technical, LTD. that likely made up a significant portion of the companies’ costs.

Which is likely why charges for fraudulent misrepresentation were not brought against most of the individuals involved in the fake bomb detector scams — because no fraud was committed, in most of their transactions. Both the sellers and the buyers of the ADE-651, the GT-200, and similar devices had full knowledge that what was being sold was a worthless piece of junk. Without the Fraud Act’s “articles for use in fraud” provisions, the actions of these companies might not have been chargeable at all.

It is notable that Bolton, unlike the other defendants, was in fact charged with one count of fraud through misrepresentation, which could imply that some of his customers were in fact duped by him. It would be curious to see what the basis for that charge was.

But I also wonder why the only claims brought by the UK were charges for fraud and fraud-related crimes — why on earth are these individuals not also being charged for bribery? After all, the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit is the division of the London police that brought charges against five of the defendants, and that division’s primary responsibility is with regards to foreign bribery actions. So why is the OACU only bringing charges for fraud here? It certainly seems odd, but with the little amount of information released about the cases so far, it’s impossible to say what the significance of it may be.

And, although I’m certainly glad to see any kind of charge brought in relation to the fraudulent bomb detector scams, it is disappointing that it took the UK authorities so long to take action against what would appear to be a very simple problem. The articles for us in fraud charges are an open-and-shut matter — there does not exist an even remotely plausible argument that these ‘bomb detector’ devices are any more effective than a chunk of scrap metal would be when it comes to detecting any sort of substance. And yet, up until the day before charges were brought against Gary Bolton, et al., these devices continued to be sold to and used by foreign governments — and thereby endangering the  lives of both civilians and law enforcement officers.

It raises the inevitable question of whether the defendants still have some behind the scenes defenders within the UK government. Or, at the very least, whether the UK’s reluctance to bring bribery charges is a result of the UK government’s own culpability in assisting with the sale of the these devices.

This isn’t simply a matter of the UK not caring about foreign deaths. These devices have frequently endangered the lives of UK nationals, as well as the citizens of UK allies, in overseas military operations. In particular, the Government of Iraq has spent upwards of $100 mil. on the devices, with much of that coming from U.S. funded foreign aid, and has been using the devices to “detect bombs” for years. In February 2011, the Iraqi government arrested Major General Jihad al-Jabiri, the general responsible for many of Iraq’s purchases of fake bomb detectors (and who, not so coincidentally, received much of the bribe money that was kickbacked in return for said contracts), suggesting that perhaps Iraq would be moving away from use of the fake bomb detectors:

Investigation revealed that Jabiri recommended that Iraq sign five contracts to supply security forces with the detectors for between 23,548.37 pounds and 34,702.86 pounds each even though the real cost of the devices is no more than 61.97 pounds, the senior official said.

The first contract, valued at about 11 million pounds, was signed in January 2007 and will be the first case taken to court, the official said.

However, it does not appear that charges against al-Jabiri ever proceeded, while Iraq’s use of the fake bomb detectors has not been discontinued.

One would think that U.S. military to Department of State would take more interest in this issue, given the cost in lives of both Iraqi and joint forces, as well as the gross waste of funds that originated from U.S. foreign aid payments. Especially given that the devices originate not from some largely lawless state where enforcement against the devices would be difficult, but rather originate from a long-term friend and military ally, the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the arrest of Bolton, McCormick, and the rest of their ilk won’t be enough to end the harm they have caused worldwide. In Thailand, for instance, where the use of the GT-200 has been particularly prevalent, federal and state military and police forces remain unconcerned by the recent charges against the manufacturers, and continue to use the devices:

The army will not stop using the GT200 bomb detector despite doubts over the efficiency of a similar device, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha says.

Gen Prayuth yesterday said the GT200 will continue to be used by the army in the far South.

He shrugged off the concerns raised in the report by the BBC’s Newsnight programme on Thursday. On the programme, Avon and Somerset Police in the UK said a British man, Jim McCormick, 55, would face six charges including producing and supplying ADE 651 devices knowing they were ineffectively designed or adapted to detect bombs.

The only positive news is that other divisions of the Thai government have expressed interest in pursuing charges over the GT-200 on their own, even if the agencies directly responsible for their use will not:

The Department of Special Investigation will take legal action against the manufacturers and distributors of allegedly defective bomb detectors if state agencies that bought them decline to do so.

DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said yesterday he would wait to see whether the agencies take action first.

If they fail to do so, his department would step in, as his investigators had gathered enough evidence.

He said the DSI would take both criminal and civil action against the manufacturer and distributors.

Here’s to hoping that the prosecutions against the fake bomb detector squad are swift and successful.


Police Raids Conducted on Global Technical, Grosvenor, and Scandec — Will the Magic Bomb Wands Finally Be Stopped For Good?

There has been some good news today: it looks as if Gary Bolton and the rest of the UK Magic Bomb Wand Gang might finally be taken down. Police staged raids on three companies, targeting Global Technical, Grosvenor, and Scandec. Combined with the arrest in January of ATSC’s MD, that amounts to most of the UK’s magic bomb wand market [Edit: But ComsTrac, maker of the Alpha 6, is still out there!]:

Police have raided three companies suspected of selling ineffective hand-held explosives detectors to overseas markets, in a case that raises questions about whether Britain has done all it can to curb the much-criticised trade.

City of London police on Tuesday said they raided five properties and planned to interview a number of individuals as part of an expanding investigation into the sale of the devices, which critics say have endangered lives in Iraq and other countries.

The police action comes after Britain in January introduced a ban on the export of the devices, but applied it only to Iraq and Afghanistan because it said it lacked the power to extend it to countries in which UK and allied forces were not engaged.

The police said they executed five search warrants at premises in Kent, Devon and Nottingham linked to the companies Grosvenor Scientific, Scandec Inc and Global Technical, seizing a large amount of cash and several hundred detection devices and their component parts. A number of people were due to be questioned under caution on suspicion of fraud by false representation and other matters, the police said, adding that they were also investigating whether bribes had been paid to procurement agents in countries in which the probes had been sold.

Thank god. Good work, Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit, but a part of me can’t help but sadly wonder why it took you so long. The OACU said in another article:

“Our suspicion is that they are deliberately manufactured in the knowledge that they don’t work,” Det Supt Cowan says. “They are being sold overseas and we suspect that corruption is in the middle of that process.”

Sorry to be snarky, but “your suspicion” is that? Y’think?

Let’s hear from another expert, as well as Gary Bolton himself, on what exactly those bomb detectors he’s manufacturing are made of:

Explosives expert Sidney Alford took apart the “black box” of the GT200, which is supposed to receive signals from the detection cards.
He was surprised at what he found.
“Speaking as a professional, I would say that is an empty plastic case,” he told us.
Mr Alford also took apart a “detection card” and found there was nothing in it other than card and paper.
Gary Bolton from Global Technical told the BBC that the lack of electronic parts “does not mean it does not operate to the specification”.

It’s pretty safe to infer what Mr. Bolton’s mens rea was here, and it ain’t just willful ignorance.

As for the allegation that there is some serious government corruption going on to explain why so many foreign states have actually bought these useless devices, it’s been pretty obvious from the start that that’s what has been going on.

It looks as if maybe the private sector in Britain has finally realized, too, that the activities of Jim McCormick and Gary Bolton aren’t just a threat to foreign states, but could very much be a danger to Britain’s security and defense industry as a whole:

ADS, the trade association for the UK aerospace and defence industry, said it was “very concerned” that the “isolated case” could cause “unjustified damage to the UK’s hard-earned global reputation as a reliable supplier of world-class and effective products”.

It said: “This one regrettable case should be balanced against the enormous number of positive contributions that our industry has made to our armed forces and to security around the world.”

But this ain’t over yet. When it comes to Global Technical and ATSC, the mere occurrence of a police raid is not enough to ensure that they will be stopped for good.

If you are reading this and from the UK, do me a favor and contact your representative and tell them you want to see follow-through on the prosecution of the fake bomb detector crew. Keep up the political pressure. The ADE-651, GT200, and other devices should be banned from export to ALL countries, not just to Iraq and Afghanistan. As an initial matter, banning the export of dangerous devices solely to countries where British troops might be is pretty sick. But also, it’s completely ineffective. These bomb wand companies have foreign distributors all over the place, and it is no trouble for them to route the “bomb detectors” to Iraq or Afghanistan through other pathways.

Back in January, the British police arrested Jim McCormick, and I thought then that there would finally be a stop to this madness. But they let him out on bail, and Jimbo went right back to business as usual, opening up a new and improved version of the ATSC, Ltd. website, just as ready to sell fake bomb detectors as he was before. Despite the arrest, nothing happened, except ATSC got a new distribution network set up in Romania.

And now, in response to the raids earlier today, a UK agency has this to say, to excuse its complete failure over the past decade at stopping the fraudulent bomb detectors:

The Department for Business defended its earlier decision to impose only a geographically limited export ban on the ADE-651 and similar devices, describing the response as “proportional and appropriate at the time”. It added that it had notified other governments about its concerns.

What a load of self-serving rubbish. The Department of Business allowed the snake oil merchants to carry on with their activities, and by doing so, contributed to further death and injury around the world. There is absolutely no reason why the UK’s response should be more forceful now than it was in January — other than a couple dozen more deaths in developing countries around the world, there has not been any change of circumstances that would justify putting more extensive bans in place now that wouldn’t have justified putting the bans in place then.

For that matter, in case anyone in the United Nations Procurement Department is reading this, there’s a lesson here for you as well:  get off your butts and take Global Technical off your vendor list! For gods sake, Global Technical has a shiny “UNITED NATIONS REGISTERED” icon on its page. That might carry a lot of weight with potential customers who check out the GT200’s webpage and see that.  It needs to go, now — there’s no excuse for why they slipped onto your supplier list in the first place, but it’s time to fix the mistake.