A COMPANY linked to an Outlander star has been accused of stealing tens of thousands of pounds from desperate firms in a debt collection scam, The Scottish Sun can reveal.
Actor Paul Donnelly – who plays Ronnie Sinclair in seasons five and six of the hit period drama alongside Sam Heughan – quit as director of under-fire Vanguard Partners after it allegedly recovered the cash then kept it.
Several businesses across the UK claim they have been put through financial hell and have lost tens of thousands in a scam after dealings with Donnelly’s former company.
The actor, 46, was the sole director of a company called Caledonian Group Services Limited for over four and half years, which is registered in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a subsidiary debt collection company named Vanguard Partners.
It is understood that the alleged scam started with a business allowing Vanguard to collect a debt on their behalf by signing it over to them.
However, once the debt was collected, it is claimed that the money was not returned to the client with Vanguard keeping it instead.
Victims of Vanguard partners
A number of alleged victims, who The Scottish Sun have chosen not to name, claimed Donnelly’s firm conned a total of tens of thousands from their businesses between 2019 and 2021.
One business owner explained that Vanguard got in touch with them and claimed they wanted to help recover a debt of £27,000 in October 2020.
The firm paid an additional £4,984.50 in court fees and claimed they received fake documents from Vanguard that showed them “chasing the debt”.
However, the debtors later sent him bank statements, which were seen by the Scottish Sun, showing that the full debt was paid in numerous instalments to Vanguard by December 2020, which he was not aware of until April 2021.
Between December and April, emails from Vanguard Partners to the businessman, also seen by The Scottish Sun, explain that they were still trying unsuccessfully to collect the debt.
“This scamming company has put me through hell”
The desperate businessman said: “This scamming company has put me through hell.
“It’s been nothing but three years of stress, not to mention the feeling of embarrassment of being scammed out of so much money.
“It makes you feel stupid. I’m in shock literally every day. I’ve got mental health issues because of him.
A second business owner explained that they signed an agreement that allowed Vanguard Partners to collect a debt of £49,747.50, who also charged them an additional £3,780 in alleged court fees in January 2021.
But no documents were sent to the company or their solicitors to say that court proceedings had begun and no one explained what the additional money was used for.
It is not known whether the original £49,747.50 debt was ever recovered.
The second business owner said: “They’re very successfully taking huge amounts of money from people.
A third victim claimed that Vanguard was entrusted to collect a debt of £1,322 for their company in April 2021 as well as charging them an additional £450.17 in fees.
They discovered that their debtors paid Vanguard after they sent over bank statements to show that it had been paid in three installments.
They said: “This is ruining people’s lives. I really feel for the people who have been done out of a major amount of money.
They’re just conning people.”
And a fourth business owner told The Scottish Sun that Vanguard Partners got in touch with them offering to help collect a debt of £20,000 and charged them a total of £2,452 in fees, but was met with radio silence after the contract was signed and the money was transferred over in July 2019.
Each of the victims explained that getting in touch with anyone at Vanguard proved to be “impossible” after it became known to them the debt had been collected by Vanguard.
Donnelly – who also appeared in BBC Scotland drama The Nest and the 2012 movie The Angel’s Share – was the sole director and only member of staff at the debt collection company until he resigned last month on February 27, just three days after he hired Oladimeji Wazee Jagun, from Italy.
Victims leave reviews on Trustpilot page
The highly-rated review website had a warning on the firm’s page that stated that they were caught “buying and selling fake reviews”.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, also confirmed that they received complaints against Vanguard Partners, but they were not reported to a police force for investigation.
Due to the high number of reports, claims are assessed against a high list of criteria, including the vulnerability of the victim, which the complaints fell short of.
It is understood that Vanguard is not regulated by the FCA.
In the summer of 2021, Donnelly opened a new concept gym in Glasgow – with free classes for youngsters suffering from mental health issues and victims of domestic abuse.
BXNG in Milngavie is filled with state-of-the-art equipment and offers small-group fitness classes and one-to-one boxing training.
He also revealed he was launching a new charity, In Your Corner.
The charity helps identify those who would benefit from the “empowering impact”, from expert training from those in the BXNG team, working with other charities including Women’s Aid and Back Onside.
He said: “I’m not the director anymore.
“I helped my pal out who has a business down south and I helped him out a little bit and we did it for four years and this happens to be an issue and I’m like ‘What the f*** is going on? Get me to f*** off this. This is b*******.’
“As far as I was concerned everything’s sorted. I helped out a pal and it’s f****** backfired on me and now I look like a c***.
“I don’t get involved with things that are no good.
“I’m just not part of it anymore. It’s too much drama.
“I have a charity, I’m working with Women’s Aid, I’ve not earned a f****** coin in about a year and a half.