THE latest investigation into a convicted conman from Bournemouth is at “an advanced stage” – but Trading Standards officers face not being able to bring a prosecution because of the cost.

Francis – or Frank – Madden was given a six-month suspended sentence for eight counts of unfair trading at Southampton Crown Court in 2012, as well as being ordered to pay £2,650 compensation to victims of his holiday scams, as well as £5,000 costs.

Following that case, Bournemouth Trading Standards received complaints about Madden and several businesses he ran – Central Marketing 2012, Glenleigh Ltd, Re Co Corp Ltd, Glenleigh Promotions and Elite Vacations.

In 2012, the court was told that Madden persuaded elderly residents in Hampshire into signing up at presentations to receive holidays to exotic locations– they were told that all they had to do was put down a deposit of several hundred pounds and sign a contract that they would book their break through his firm, trading as Hotweeks.

But, when they read the small print, they found that it would cost as much as £3,000, as it included a second week.

Since then, Trading Standards have continued to investigate Madden’s operations, but the scale means that it will need help from Whitehall.

Colston Nichols, senior Trading Standards officer at Bournemouth Borough Council, said: “This investigation is at an advanced stage and our officers have obtained dozens of statements from alleged victims.

“This has demonstrated the national scale of the alleged fraud. To prosecute a complex case like this with multiple defendants could cost up to £100,000, which is a far greater burden than Bournemouth and Poole Trading Standards can shoulder alone and risks compromising the interests of local residents.

“Alleged scams like this represent a national problem that needs a national response. As a consequence, Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole Trading Standards are hoping to secure financial assistance from central government through the National Trading Standards Board.”

Kwikchex, a Bournemouth-based firm that manages a website advising consumers regarding businesses that operate in the timeshare sector, has been providing information for the investigation.

Chris Emmins, co-founder of Kwikchex, said: “Such offers are usually revealed as false, with consumers able to purchase at similar or lower prices, particularly on the internet or teletext, without any need to pay upfront.”

Residents in Dorset fell foul of Madden’s holiday club Discovery Concepts Ltd in the early 2000s and lost up to £4,000 each.

The Daily Echo published an in-depth investigation into how customers were invited by mail shots or cold calls to presentations at classy hotels.

There they paid between £2,600 and £4,000 and signed a contract, which was carefully worded to promise nothing. Madden ran the business from his Serendipity shop in Christchurch Road, Boscombe.

The investigation sparked action from the Office of Fair Trading.

The Daily Echo could not reach Frank Madden for comment.