News item

Rogue car dealer gang convicted

Following an eight week trial at Leeds Crown Court :

Kirk Michael CLAUS  (Age 47)
Slate Delf Farm, Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd

Craig FIRTH  (Age 51)
18 Mossey Bank Close, Queensbury, Bradford

Michael Barry ADAMS (Age 41)
97 Crag Road, Windhill, Shipley

David Andrew INGHAM (Age 42)
45 Wallwood Avenue, Halifax

David Patrick KELLY (Age 28)
3 Redbrow Hollow, Compstall, Stockport, Cheshire

and Chequered Flag Car and Bike Sales Limited,

were found guilty by a jury of conspiring to defraud customers of Chequered Flag Car Sales and other companies and businesses trading from 541 Halifax Road, Hipperholme, West Yorkshire.

CLAUS, FIRTH, ADAMS, INGHAM and KELLY were also convicted of money laundering.

A sixth individual, Paul CLEMENTS (age 36) from the Romley area, Greater Manchester was convicted of entering into an arrangement which he knew or suspected facilitated the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person or persons.

The defendants, together with another individual, Peter Wayne BRAY (age 57) of Dee Way, Division Lane, Blackpool Lancs, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud at an earlier hearing, will sentenced on the 27th September at Leeds Crown Court . June CLAUS, the wife of Kirk CLAUS was acquitted of money laundering following a ‘no case to answer’ application during the course of the hearing

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 following complaints received from customers who had purchased cars from Chequered Flag Cars and Bikes between September 2009 to August  2010.  

The cost of bringing the case to court was partly met by a grant from the Office of Fair Trading.

Examples of the complaints included:

•    Insurance ‘write off’ vehicles being sold as ‘immaculate inside and out’
•    Vehicles being sold with false mileage readings
•    Vehicles being sold with ‘full manufacturer’s service history’ when no such history existed
•    A vehicle being sold which was subject to a finance agreement
•    Vehicles being sold with various disguised faults such as a sand filled radiator.
•    Vehicles being sold with false warranties.

In many instances registration documents and other paperwork was withheld until the cars were paid for and taken from the forecourt.  When customers returned vehicles or tried to get warranty work undertaken they were met with ridicule and abuse from some of the defendants.

The internet advertising and the promotional material ot the forecourt were described by Kirk Claus when giving evidence as “Flamboyant”.

During the investigation little was said by the defendants at interview, sometimes they claimed they did not know others in the business and that they had minimal involvement in the business. Most gave ‘no comment’ interviews.

Colin Rumford, a spokesman for the Scambuster Team said: "This has been a very long and difficult investigation frustrated by the lack of cooperation 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:  “This is very pleasing verdict.  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 consumer helpline on 08454 040506”.


Sentencing will take place 27 September 2012 at Leeds Crown Court

(ENDS)

Notes to editors:

1.    The Yorkshire & the Humber Trading Standards Group Scambuster Team are a specialist trading standards service operated by City of York Council on behalf of the 11 trading standards services in the Yorkshire and the Humber region.  The team is tasked with uncovering scams and rogue trading practices that operative across local authority boundaries. There are eight Scambuster teams operating throughout the UK. Further details are available from the following link. http://berr.gov.uk/policies/consumer-issues/enforcement-of-consumer-law/trading-standards/scambuster-teams

2.    This is one of a number of scams the Yorkshire and the Humber team, funded by the National Trading Standards Board, have uncovered since it was established in 2008.

For further information please contact Colin Rumford Head of Public Protection at City of York Council and member of the Yorkshire & the Humber Trading Standards Group Scambuster Team, on 01904 551502.

The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government to improve enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally and who cause harm to consumers and legitimate businesses.

Contact : Wendy Martin 07982 418423 or  David Collinson 01603 222253