'Despicable' Erith illegal worker scam ringleaders first exposed by dogged solicitor of exploited worker

Patrick McNamee is pleased Okoh and Chiazor have been brought to justice.

Anthony Okoh.

Victor Chiazor.

Teresa Pearce was involved in exposing the scam.

First published in News
Last updated
News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

The “despicable” ringleaders of a £6 million Erith illegal worker scam were first exposed by the dogged solicitor of a legitimate employee fed up of being exploited.

Patrick McNamee was working at Cross Street Law Centre in Erith when the former Blue Feathers Guarding Ltd security guard, who does not want to be named, came to him complaining of being paid just £3 an hour.

Their first meeting was as far back as 2011 and three years later Blue Feathers director and manager Anthony Okoh, 45, and Victor Chiazor, 50, are behind bars after being convicted of using the company as a front for employing illegal workers.

Mr McNamee told News Shopper: “It was despicable and I’m really pleased with the sentence.

“It was tantamount to slavery but with a bit of pay.

“The owners could quite easily have afforded to pay these people a decent wage and charge the right amount to the contractors.

“They were probably turning away legal workers because he didn’t want to pay them the full amount.”

Despite paying employees less than half the minimum wage, Okoh, of Floathaven Close, Woolwich, and Chiazor, of Nightingale Vale, Woolwich, charged full rates to contractors.

Following a three month trial at Woolwich Crown Court, Okoh was found guilty on February 12 of conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law, contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977, and using unlicensed security operatives contrary to the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

He was sentenced to a total of four-and-a-half years in prison and Chiazor - who was convicted on the first charge and pleaded guilty to the second - 18 months behind bars.

Mr McNamee managed to get compensation for his client at an employment tribunal as the employee was a legal immigrant to the UK - unlike many Blue Feathers employees who had no chance of redress. 

He referred the matter to Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce who alerted the police.

Ms Pearce said: “On further investigation it became clear non- payment of the minimum wage was the tip of the iceberg.

“This was a security company that was deliberately exploiting both its workers and its customers.”

With Cross Street Law Centre closing this month, Mr McNamee now works at Hadfield Solicitors in Welling, offering no-win-no-fee services to former Cross Street clients who no longer qualify for legal aid.

Okoh and Chiazor were brought to justice after an investigation by the Home Office’s south London criminal investigations team, supported by the Security Industry Authority.

Both have been banned from holding SIA licences meaning they can no longer work in the industry.

Follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/tim.macfarlan.1 or on Twitter @NewsShopperTim

Comments (5)

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9:54pm Mon 24 Mar 14

reasonable75 says...

Bordering on slavery
Bordering on slavery reasonable75
  • Score: 13

3:32am Tue 25 Mar 14

ISaidThis says...

Legal aid cuts are being felt by the poorest in society.
Legal aid cuts are being felt by the poorest in society. ISaidThis
  • Score: -2

9:39am Tue 25 Mar 14

concerned.erith says...

if you are in this country ILLEGALLY what legal rights do you expect.
These are type of peopel who exlpoit the illegals. More for border control to stop this.
if you are in this country ILLEGALLY what legal rights do you expect. These are type of peopel who exlpoit the illegals. More for border control to stop this. concerned.erith
  • Score: 39

12:10pm Tue 25 Mar 14

Outandabout says...

concerned.erith wrote:
if you are in this country ILLEGALLY what legal rights do you expect.
These are type of peopel who exlpoit the illegals. More for border control to stop this.
The worker himself was here legally and wasn't paid at all. He worked 12 shifts and was told his pay would be £3 "take it or leave it". He had worked with many of the staff and found they were all illegal. Initially the company denied he had worked for them even though he was given uniform and formal training by another company and gave out certificates. Once the case concluded it was referred to the local MP for advice and her persistence was key to moving forward the criminal investigation. The details of the case could not be released without permission, confidentiality and all that. The police obtained a court order to compelling the release and from that point everything was disclosed which laid the basis for the criminal prosecution. The Law Centre is no more though
[quote][p][bold]concerned.erith[/bold] wrote: if you are in this country ILLEGALLY what legal rights do you expect. These are type of peopel who exlpoit the illegals. More for border control to stop this.[/p][/quote]The worker himself was here legally and wasn't paid at all. He worked 12 shifts and was told his pay would be £3 "take it or leave it". He had worked with many of the staff and found they were all illegal. Initially the company denied he had worked for them even though he was given uniform and formal training by another company and gave out certificates. Once the case concluded it was referred to the local MP for advice and her persistence was key to moving forward the criminal investigation. The details of the case could not be released without permission, confidentiality and all that. The police obtained a court order to compelling the release and from that point everything was disclosed which laid the basis for the criminal prosecution. The Law Centre is no more though Outandabout
  • Score: 3

12:11pm Tue 25 Mar 14

Outandabout says...

Sorry. £3 an hour
Sorry. £3 an hour Outandabout
  • Score: 2

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