A fraudster from Hove was jailed for 18 months at Lewes Crown Court Thursday 21 February.
Russell Chandler, 29, of Cambridge Road, Hove, targeted small businesses by pretending to offer contacts for work.
He employed sales staff whose job was to try to persuade tradesmen to pay his company Harrington Builds a “one-off administration fee” of £250.
Those targeted as part of the scam were told that the fee would be refunded.
Chandler, also known as Alfred Chase, was brought to book by the Brighton and Hove City Council trading standards department for making false representations.
His company, which had an address in Preston Road, Brighton, and a professional-looking website, cold-called businesses which were advertising on the internet.
Those businesses were told that Harrington Builds UK was looking to build up a consortium of contractors to sub-contract work to in their area.
They were promised a contract and told that it would be the first job of many.
Businesses were asked to provide documents and references and were issued with “follow up contracts” including a reference number.
But they were not given any work and those who became suspicious were unable to reach Chandler’s company.
The types of contracts that were said to be available included cleaning, painting and decorating, electrical work, garden maintenance and rubbish collection.
The scam was worked from Brighton and Hove but targeted people from all over the country during 2011 which was when Brighton and Hove trading standards officers started investigating.
The technique was similar to the method used by FPBUK, also known as Future Build UK, another company run by Chandler but which has now been dissolved.
He has also been linked to A Chase Associates based in Crescent Road, Brighton.
Chandler pleaded guilty to 11 counts of making false representations.
Jo Player, the council’s trading standards manager, said: “This was a blatant scam targeting small businesses who can ill afford to waste money in these times.
“Trading standards operates the well-respected ‘buy with confidence’ scheme where businesses can advertise their services and the public can find reliable traders.”