A man and a woman have been sentenced for falsely claiming a thermal imaging device used on horses could detect breast cancer in humans.

Sophie Gent (31) was first warned by Staffordshire County Council's Trading Standards' team in October 2014 that a machine, known as a VET2000, was not suitable for use on humans.

Gent, from Neats Gate farm, Uppingham Road, Leicester, admitted offences concerning the promotion and use of the Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) devices.

Operating from sole trader clinics, Gent claimed on her website that ‘DITI’ was capable of detecting breast abnormalities between eight and 20 years earlier than a mammogram could.

Businesses were duped by Gent into investing around £20,000 each to set up screening clinics. But despite the warning from trading standards, she continued to advertise her screening services. 

On Monday (2 March), Gent was sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court to 140 hours of community service and ordered to pay £3,800 in costs.

William Bradford (aged 81) of Keates Road, Cambridge, was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £2,950 costs after pleading guilty to falsely representing that a VET2000 could be used on humans.

He did this while he was training delegates to use the devices for breast cancer screening and other medical uses.

Ms Gent would arrange for those who had purchased the VET2000 to be “medically trained” by Bradford, who had the UK sales rights for the VET2000 from its US manufacturers.

The court heard that Bradford acknowledged in later correspondence that the VET2000 was “basically unsuitable for human applications” for technical reasons that were not relevant when screening animals.

“How she misled people was disgusting…”

Gent and another of her businesses, Syncthermology Ltd – formerly Equiscan Ltd - also pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation. 

In selling equine businesses training packages, at £5,000, with Gent’s consent or connivance, it was claimed that training courses were developed by, and screenings carried out by, the British College of Veterinary Thermography (BCVT). The court was told that the organisation didn’t exist.

Syncthermology was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,600 costs.

Gill Heath of Staffordshire County Council said: “Not only did Gent dupe businesses into buying equipment that didn’t do its job, she put people’s lives at risk by falsely claiming to businesses and to customers at her own clinic that the equipment was suitable for breast screening for cancer when it clearly wasn’t.”

Dianne Foulkes, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, purchased one of the devices and carried out around ten scans on women. 

“I bought this equipment in good faith as it was sold as medically compliant,” she said.

“Once I became aware Ms Gent had made this claim falsely, I reported my concerns to the relevant authorities and wrote to my medical clients.”

Businesswoman Lisa Fisher, from Middlesbrough, purchased one of the devices but grew suspicious before she could use it for breast screening.

“I’m really pleased to hear that the dubious marketing and ‘business practices’ of Ms Gent have been investigated at length and proved fraudulent. She was incredibly convincing and persuasive and how she misled people was disgusting.

“I lost a significant amount of money investing in a ‘business package’ that proved to be fanciful at best and potentially harmful at worst.”

Gent was managing director of Syncthermology Ltd (formerly Equiscan Ltd). She also operated screening clinics as a sole trader under the names Syncmedical and Medical Thermal Imaging North West (MTi) from Liverpool and other cities in the north-west