Five staff from a chauffeur services firm have been convicted over a car clocking conspiracy that involved hiding at least 7.5 million miles of use.
Simon Richard Williams, 49, of Fluin Lane, Frodsham; Christopher Graham Lunt, 39, of Long Lane, Chester; John Murphy, 67, of Conwy; Paul Arslanian, 38, from Conwy; and Trevor Gareth Jones, 58, of Colwyn Bay, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud at Chester Crown Court after a six-week trial.
The case followed a three-year Trading Standards investigation by Halton and Warrington councils, the biggest probe of its kind carried out by them.
The defendants were found guilty of operating a widespread system of clocking the cars in their possession.
Trading Standards investigators began their probe in 2013 after receiving information of alleged fraud and consumer protection offences, relating to the turning back of mileages on vehicles obtained by the Runcorn company.
A Warrington Borough Council spokesman said the defendants sought to profit from the offence as vehicles were subsequently sold with inflated sales prices based on false mileages.
He said the huge amount of evidence gathered included cross referencing of fuel records for vehicles, examining finance and warranty work records and recording the accounts of buyers of ‘clocked’ vehicles.
It was found that more than 100 vehicles had been clocked, with evidence of clocked vehicles dating from 2008 to 2014.
The minimum amount of clocking which is believed to have taken place is 7.5 million miles.
As well as gathering evidence against Murphy, Arslanian, Lunt, and Jones for altering the mileage of cars in the possession of PCS Events Ltd, the investigation by Trading Standards officers also revealed links to Williams, who carried out MOT testing of clocked vehicles, producing documents which showed incorrect mileage.
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Cllr Dave Cargill, of Halton Borough Council, said: “This investigation, carried out, in partnership, is the biggest investigation of its kind that either has carried out.
“It’s fantastic news that, thanks to the efforts of our dedicated officers, successful action has been taken against this widespread fraud, that has been committed for a number of years.”
Cllr Judith Guthrie, Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for public protection, said: “The successful prosecution of fraud on this scale is a huge success story for our Trading Standards team. Building this case and bringing it to trial has taken three years of meticulous, painstaking work and dedication. It sends out a clear message, once again, that if you carry out fraudulent activity, we will take action against you.”
Prosecutors Richard Pratt QC and Nicola Miles argued that the defendants carried out the widespread clocking of cars ‘behind the veneer of respectability of the company’ and that ‘those who manipulate the mileage of a motor vehicle prior to its onwards sale to a third party can, we say, have only one purpose in mind. It is to deceive and to defraud’.
Seven individuals were prosecuted for conspiracy to commit fraud in the case.
All pleaded not guilty, with Lunt subsequently changing his plea to guilty.
Two defendants, Laura Jayne Murphy, of Long Lane, Chester, and Kevin Paul Batty, of Sutton, in Craven, North Yorkshire, were acquitted of the charges.
Sentencing is due to take place on March 17 at Liverpool Crown Court.