A GROUP of “fraudsters” and “liars” have gone on trial accused of running copycat websites that charged the public fees for government services like visa applications.

Pages were designed to look like official websites and fool customers into thinking they were on the authorised internet sites for US passport applications or Land Registry documents, a jury was told.

Peter Hall, 48, of Alton, Hampshire, and his partner Claire Hall, 42, have already been convicted of fraud for running similar sites, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The couple, who are not married, and their co-accused Kerry Mills, 49, of Hillsborough Park, Camberley, Surrey, and Andrew Baker, 46, of Gascoigne Lane, Alresford, Hampshire, deny a series of charges.

Denise Breen-Lawton, prosecuting, said: “All four defendants are, firstly, fraudsters and, secondly, liars.

“The fraud we allege was a scam on the internet where the defendants set up websites which were designed to fool people like you, on the internet, into thinking they were going on genuine official government websites, things like applications for visas for places like Turkey or Sri Lanka, or US passport applications or Land Registry documents.”

She said official sites offered these services for free or for a set fee, but the defendants ran companies which charged a service fee on top having fooled users into thinking it was the genuine site.

The scam was to act as a middle man for the official site “while doing little or nothing for their service fee”, the prosecution said.

Ms Breen-Lawton said there was nothing wrong with genuine “check and sent” services if the consumer knew what they were paying for.

She said Peter Hall had already been convicted of fraud linked to his travel business in September 2013, when he started the website scam.

He faced a £362,000 confiscation order when he started TAD Services, Ms Breen-Lawton told the jury, and he put the firm in Claire Hall’s name.

The scam required a website design which was similar to the official site, with the same colour scheme, logos and symbols. A small disclaimer, sometimes hidden on the page, would be included but less prominently than the apply buttons, the court heard.

The fraudsters used Google to advertise their pages, the jury was told.

The Halls’ home and business was searched in June 2014 by Trading Standards investigating scam websites.

The Halls were convicted last June of conspiracy to defraud by running copycat websites between 2011 and 2014, the jury was told.

Peter Hall is accused in this trial of continuing the fraud after June 2014 by using others as a front.

He is charged with Mills and Baker with conspiracy to defraud website users and they are also charged with perverting the course of justice with regards to concealing assets.

Claire Hall is charged with two counts of perverting the course of justice. Mills is also charged with perverting the course of justice after she allegedly remotely wiped her iPhone after it was seized.

The court was told she claimed she reset the phone as she did not not want other people to see certain photographs it held.

All four are charged with a Proceeds of Crime offence.

The trial continues.