Eight years in prison for dodgy car gang

A gang of rogue car dealers have been sentenced to a total of eight years in jail.

Friday, 7th December 2012, 12:44 pm

The dodgy dealers operated a number of businesses, including Chequered Flag Car Sales, out of a premises in Halifax Road, Hipperholme and were convicted of conspiring to defraud customers .

They sold unsuspecting customers cars that had been written off by insurance companies, and laughed when people later complained to them about the state of the vehicles.

They also sold vehicles with various disguised faults, such as a sand filled radiator, and sold vehicles with false warranties.

The ring leader Kirk Claus, 47, of Mytholmroyd, was given three years and Peter Bray, 57, of Blackpool, was given two years - he was the only defendant to admit the charges while the rest denied them and were found guilty after a trial.

Claus and Bray were disqualified from being company directors for five years.

Craig Firth, 51, of Queensbury, was jailed for two years, Michael Adams, 41, of Shipley, was given 12 months, and David Ingham, 42, of Halifax, was given a six month sentence suspended for two years. They were all also convicted of money laundering.

The court heard that the company operated under different trading names to confuse customers who rang up to complain about the vehicles that were sold to them.

Mr Claus also used pseudonyms such as “Billy” and “Horris” to try and confuse customers.

The company’s turnover was £397,000 but it was estimated that they made £175,550.

Passing the sentences at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Judge Guy Kearl QC, said it was a deliberate and planned conspiracy to defraud.

“It was, in effect, professional offending. You preyed on the confidence the victims had in your reputation.”

The investigation was carried out by the Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards Group Scambuster Team supported by officers from West Yorkshire and City of York trading standards services and West Yorkshire Police.

The gang sold insurance “write off” vehicles as “immaculate inside and out”, sold vehicles with false mileage readings, sold vehicles with “a full manufacturer’s service history” when none existed and sold a vehicle which was subject to a finance agreement.

When customers returned vehicles or tried to get warranty work undertaken they were met with ridicule and abuse from some of the defendants.

The police investigation lasted from 2009 to 2010.

Paul Clements, 36, from the Romley area of Greater Manchester, and David Kelly, 28, of Stockport, face similar charges but their sentencing was adjourned to January 11, 2013, after they were involved in a car accident in France.

June Claus, the wife of Kirk, was acquitted of money laundering at an earlier hearing.

l After the trial, Colin Rumford, a spokesman for the Scambuster Team, 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.”

David Collinson, chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said the verdict gave a strong message. “Conning the public in this manner is simply not acceptable and anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice or who knows of anyone who has been exploited by a rogue trader should contact the local Trading Standards Department or the Citizens Advice Bureau helpline on 0845 4040506.”