A ROGUE car dealer has had his prison sentence extended after investigators seized over a hundred vehicles, including luxury models, from addresses across the country valued at over £1m.
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 last year.
After the hearing he was told not to dispose of his assets, which included a number of vintage and specialist cars and motorcycles, as he would have to face a proceeds of crime investigation and faced paying back cash gained from criminal behaviour.
However investigators discovered Claus had tried to frustrate the investigation by hiding his assets.
Claus was part of a gang which 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 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.”
Now, following a hearing at Leeds Crown Court, Claus has been sentenced to another 11 months after he was found to have breached an order which prevented him disposing of his assets ahead of a confiscation hearing.
The case was brought by York Council on behalf of the National Trading Standards Board funded regional Scambuster Team.
Colin Rumford, head of public protection at York Council said afterwards Claus’ attempts to hide his assets “was quite staggering.”
“Scambuster officers working with the NE Regional Asset Recovery team, the West Yorkshire Todmorden based Upper Valley Local Policing Team, and other police forces seized over 100 hidden cars and motorcycles from locations as far afield as Northampton, Wales and Heysham dock near Liverpool,” he said.
At the hearing an order was also issued authorising the sale of cars, motorcycles and other items that had been seized by officers.
Chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, Lord Toby Harris, said after the court hearing the case brought by the Trading Standards Scambuster team sent: “a strong clear message to fraudsters that crime does not pay.”
He added: “Since bringing the criminal car dealers of Chequered Flag Car Sales to justice a year ago trading standards officers have continued to work tirelessly to detect and seize considerable assets that Kirk Claus and six co-defendants accumulated with the money they made fraudulently.
“The huge seizure of over 100 vehicles, most of which belonged to Claus, including many luxury models, are now due to be sold at auction for an estimated value of over £1 million will hit him where it hurts.
“Investigations are ongoing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to identify and seize any remaining assets.”
Coun Linsay Cunningham-Cross, York Council’s cabinet member for crime and community safety, said afterwards: “This is an excellent example of officers using their powers robustly and working in partnership with other agencies to reinforce the message crime simply does not pay. Rogue traders may once have considered the punishment of the courts as an inconvenience but now they can expect to lose the assets they’ve acquired through their criminality.”