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Jul 26 2013

Magical boxes

That guy who put handles and antennae on boxes and sold the result as “bomb detectors” has been found guilty of making and selling fake bomb detectors. There are some things you really don’t want fakes of – bridges, medicine, fire trucks – stuff like that. Bomb detectors are high up on that list if you live in an area where bombs are a real possibility. Lots of people do. Many many many people live in places like that.

The Old Bailey heard the devices made by Gary Bolton, 47, were nothing more than boxes with handles and antennae.

The prosecution said he sold them for up to £10,000 each, claiming they could detect explosives. The trial heard the company had a £3m annual turnover selling the homemade devices.

Bolton, of Redshank Road in Chatham, Kent, had denied two charges of fraud. Sentencing has been adjourned.

Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the court that Bolton knew the devices – which were also alleged to be able to detect drugs, tobacco, ivory and cash – did not work but supplied them anyway to be sold to overseas businesses.

No fraud though! Just an honest mistake. He thought attaching antennae to the empty boxes turned them into bomb detectors.

Bolton claimed his own devices worked with a range of 766 yards (700m) at ground level and as far as two and a half miles (4km) in the air.

He claimed they were effective through lead-lined and metal walls, water, containers and earth.

In 2010 a Home Office defence expert tested Bolton’s GT200 detector at the request of the Office of Fair Trading and found it had “no credibility as an explosive detector” because it had no functioning parts.

Further stringent “double-blind” tests carried out on the GT200 by Dr Michael Sutherland of the University of Cambridge found that it worked successfully twice in 24 tests searching for TNT, which was less than the probability of finding the explosives at random.

Which is not surprising, because the box was empty.

It’s a bit like Harry Lime and the diluted penicillin. Not just fraud but lethal fraud. Not nice.

 

 

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Raging Bee

    This dirtball should consider himself lucky that he was caught BEFORE anyone got killed by a bomb his magic boxes failed to detect. ANd the rest of us should consider ourselves lucky for the same reason — especially since such killing would no doubt be used by Republicans to justify even more hatred of Muslims, and even more destruction of our basic freedoms.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    I’m not sure we know that no one was killed in that way.

  3. 3
    lechatnoir

    Heh. Worse that the chance of finding them at random.

  4. 4
    Peter N

    Oh, lots of people have died because they trusted this device. Just go to the Wikipedia page and search for the word “killed”. I’m sure those cases barely scratch the surface.

    It infuriates me that it’s such an obvious scam! It’s nothing but an empty plastic box, and it cost tens of thousands of dollars each. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them were sold. I can’t understand the credulity and stupidity of the people who bought and used them, and I particularly can’t understand the utter immorality of those who made and sold them.

  5. 5
    Bjarte Foshaug

    I may be confusing Bolton with another douchebag, but I seem to remember him saying something about how people were ‘skeptical’ of his device simply because it looked too primitive, and his ‘solution’ was going to be to equip the next model with some more flashing lights and stuff. Yeah, because that would obviously solve the problem…

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    Bjarte, yes – it was one of those guys, at least. The BBC piece mentions two. I blogged about that at the time.

  7. 7
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Ophelia, and he hasn’t been found guilty before now?! :-S

  8. 8
    Graculus

    Over on the Skeptics Dictionary they have an entry on one of these devices, the Quadro Tracker. The lab report of what was inside has my favourite sentence ever written in a technical report: “epoxied, scrambled dead ants”

  9. 9
    Claire Ramsey

    I hope he is prosecuted next for selling fraudulent drug detectors, fraudulent tobacco detectors, fraudulent ivory detectors and fraudulent cash detectors. . . what scum

  10. 10
    medivh

    Peter N, #4: Considering how most people treat technology as magic, I’m not surprised. Equally, though, it can be seen as “we were told it works, we don’t have the expertise to say yay or nay, trust the advertisements aren’t complete lies then!”

    Claire, #9: I’m kind of hoping for wrongful death in the commision of a crime (i.e. felony murder to the U.S.), myself.

  11. 11
    sailor1031

    Is this the guy that got started by buying up a bunch of remaindered “golf ball detectors”? No they didn’t work for that either but at least it disproved the notion that you can sell anything at all to golfers. Not so sure about hunters and fishermen though…..

    OTOH whatever happened to caveat emptor? didn’t any of the purchasers of these boxes look inside? or test them? FFS

  12. 12
    Jonny Vincent

    I can’t understand the credulity and stupidity of the people who bought and used them, and I particularly can’t understand the utter immorality of those who made and sold them.

    I can’t understand the credulity of those who are incredulous at learning there is corruption in the world. The utter immorality of those who sold them is on par with those who bought them.

    Here in Thailand, the Thai military bought a whole bunch of these and it’s one thing to get caught with your pants down, pull them up and deny it ever happened but quite another to get caught with your pants down and simply deny your pants are down without bothering to pull them up. That’s what the military was doing here and soldiers were getting blown up whilst using them (Thailand has been trying to suppress a Muslim insurgency in the south without much luck because the insurgents don’t want what they say they want; evil men just want the violence to leverage into power / control).

    It was a farcical situation for awhile with the military denying they were faulty and it took a once-in-a-lifetime politician (who was promptly replaced the following election by a pretty smile because democracy is a bad joke played on reduced humans incapable of acting in their own best interests) to square off with the all-powerful military and force them to subject the bomb detectors to ‘further’ testing.

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