THE RINGLEADER of a gang of rogue car dealers has been jailed for operating in a culture of deception.
Kirk Claus who ran Chequered Flag Car Sales in Halifax Road, Hipperholme, has been convicted of conspiring to defraud customers and money laundering arising from the illegal sale of misdescribed second hand cars from the garage.
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 47-year-old of Cragg Vale was found guilty along with three other dodgy dealers following an eight-week trial at Leeds Crown Court back in August.
Last Thursday Claus was sentenced to three years for his involvement and Peter Bray, 57, of Blackpool, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at an earlier hearing, was given two years.
They were both 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.
Ingham must undertake 150 hours unpaid community service.
They were 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.
The company’s turnover was £397,000 but it was estimated that they made £175,550.
In passing the sentence, His Honour Judge Guy Kearl QC, said that the defendants operated in a culture of deception which was widespread and deliberate, they simply could not care less.
Judge Kearl was sure that there were many more victims who did not complain or who were unaware of any defects in the vehicles they had purchased.
“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 and was supported by officers from West Yorkshire and City of York Council trading standards services and West Yorkshire Police following complaints received from customers who had purchased cars from the garage between September 2009 to August 2010.
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.
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.”
David Kelly, 28, of Stockport and Paul Clements, 36, from the Romley area of Greater Manchester, who were found guilty of money laundering offences will be sentence on January 11, 2013.
A further sentence will also be carried out against the company, Chequered Flag Car and Bike Sales Ltd in connection with its assets at the same time.