FOur rogue car dealers have been jailed for defrauding customers of thousands of pounds by selling them defective and even dangerous vehicles.
The quartet operated from an address in Halifax Road, Hipperholme where second-hand cars and motor bikes sold through Chequered Flag Car and Bike Sales were regularly misdescribed, duping buyers from across the UK.
Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards croup Scambuster team launched an investigation after customers complained about vehicles being sold with false mileage readings, “full manufacturer’s service history” when no such history existed, and insurance write-offs sold as “immaculate inside and out”.
Sentencing five men at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Judge Guy Kearl QC said it was impossible to know how many people had been deceived and “how many lives had been put at risk”.
In one case, minutes after a motorist took his newly-bought car on to the motorway “it simply cut out,” he said.
One customer travelled from an island off the coast of Scotland to buy a vehicle described as immaculate, only to find “it was anything but that”.
Some buyers were put to considerable expense to have repairs done, others could not afford to do so and the vehicles were left rusting away.
The company’s turnover was £397,000 a year and the money involved in the complaints before the court involved £175,000. Many customers could not afford to lose what they had paid, including a nursery teacher who did not have much money and had her car bought for her by her mother.
“This was a deliberate and planned conspiracy to defraud,” the judge added. “It was in effect professional offending, preying on the confidence that victims had in your representations.”
The court heard Kirk Michael Claus used different names to confuse people and when customers tried to complain they were met with ridicule or abuse.
Claus, 47 of Slate Delf Farm, Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd was jailed for three years and banned from being a company director for five years after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering after an eight week trial.
Peter William Bray, 57, of Dee Way, Division Lane, Blackpool was jailed for two years and disqualified from being a company director for five years after he admitted conspiracy to defraud. He and Claus were described as “at the heart of the conspiracy”.
Craig Firth, 51 of Mossey Bank Close, Queensbury, Bradford was jailed for two years and Michael Barry Adams, 41 of Crag Road, Windhill, Shipley, was jailed for 12 months after they were convicted by the jury of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
David Andrew Ingham, 42 of Wallwood Avenue, Halifax, was given six months suspended for two years with 150 hours unpaid work after he was also convicted of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
The company and two other men will be sentenced next month.
Colin Rumford for the Scambuster Team who were supported by City of York Council trading standards services and West Yorkshire Police and trading standards said: “This has been a very long and difficult investigation frustrated by the lack of co-operation by the defendants.
“They went to great lengths to sell misdescribed and sometimes potentially dangerous second-hand cars on a wide scale but accepted no responsibility for their actions.”