Two car traders have been jailed for defrauding customers by selling vehicles with falsified mileages and service histories, following a joint investigation by Surrey County Council and the London Borough of Merton Trading Standards Service. Action taken by the Asset Recovery Agency also resulted in assets of over £354,000 being seized, determined as the proceeds of crime.
At Guildford Crown Court on March 1 2006, Clifford John Bishop, who lived at Park Road, Banstead, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, having been found guilty on all counts after an eight-day trial. He had been charged with six counts of falsely representing the mileages on vehicles (i.e. ‘clocking’ them) which he sold, using multiple aliases, from short term rented offices in Redhill, Tadworth and Epsom Downs. Bishop was described in Court as the front man or salesman in the scheme to defraud members of the public who purchased vehicles from him.
On 02 March 2006, Lee Thomas Martin of Downs Way, Tadworth, Martin was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment and a confiscation order was made for him to be stripped of £354,049 – the proceeds of his crimes. He was given 12 months to pay this money, otherwise he may be jailed for up to a further five years, without early release, to be served consecutively with his 27 months. Furthermore, Martin was ordered to pay compensation of £30,760 to 11 of the pair’s victims.
Martin was instrumental in setting up and operating up to six false bank accounts using the aliases such as ‘Christian Martin Anderton t/as “Surrey Trade Sales”‘ and ‘Christian Martin Anderton t/as “Manheim”‘. The latter account was designed to facilitate frauds involving cheque payments by deliberately using the name of a well-known and reputable motor auctions house, with which neither Martin nor Bishop have any connection. Martin was described as the main participant in the frauds, acting as the banker, through whose accounts payments for the vehicles passed. He accepted that he had clocked vehicles and sold these on to members of the public or other garages. Acting with Bishop, vehicles had been sold from short-term rented offices at Raynes Park, Morden, Redhill, Tadworth and Epsom Downs, using multiple false names. Customers buying such vehicles were given false service histories and by the time they realised the vehicles were clocked the sellers had disappeared.
The £354K confiscation is believed to be the largest-ever recovery of criminal assets connected with a Trading Standards investigation.
In sentencing the defendants, Judge Crocker sa