A judge has ordered £6.5 million payback under the Proceeds of Crime Act as a result of what is believed to be the UK’s largest seizure of vehicles from a single rogue trader.
The ruling yesterday (15 December 2014) at Leeds Crown Court, follows the prosecution by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team of Kirk CLAUS and Peter BRAY who ripped off car buyers and who have been ordered to pay back a total of £6,407,268.32 gained from their criminal activity.
The total payback ordered by all those involved in the scam – including four other men who were sentenced earlier this year – was £6,552,302.42.
Kirk Michael CLAUS (aged 47) of Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd and Peter Wayne BRAY (aged 57) of Division Lane, Blackpool had been convicted at Leeds Crown Court in 2012 for their part in a conspiracy to defraud the customers of Chequered Flag Car Sales in Halifax and for money laundering arising from the illegal sale of misdescribed second hand cars from the garage.
The Confiscation Orders followed an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act by the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team and the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Trading Standards Scambuster Team. The investigation found the total criminal benefit to these men and four co defendants from their illegal enterprise to be £26,565,449.70.
Kirk Michael CLAUS (Age 47) of Slate Delf Farm, Cragg Vale, Mytholmroyd was given a confiscation order of £6,203,025.72 which was determined by the Court as the available amount of his realisable assets. He was ordered to pay this within six months or face a further seven years imprisonment. The benefit of CLAUS’ criminal conduct was determined by the court to be £15,530,636.71.
Peter Wayne BRAY (age 57) of Dee Way, Division Lane, Blackpool, Lancs was given a confiscation order of £204,242.60 which was determined by the Court as the available amount of his realisable assets. He was ordered to pay this within six months or face a further two and a half years imprisonment. The benefit of BRAY’s criminal conduct was determined by the court to be £9,806,069.02.
Chequered Flag Cars and Bikes Limited was fined £250,000.
Confiscation Orders had been made against four other individuals at earlier hearings in December 2012 and August 2013 at Leeds Crown Court:
Craig FIRTH (Age 54) of 18 Mossy Bank Close, Queensbury, Bradford, was given a confiscation order of £30,058.10 which was determined by the Court as the available amount of his realisable assets. He was ordered to pay this within six months or face a further 15 months imprisonment. The benefit of FIRTH’s criminal conduct was determined by the Court to be £569,172.
Michael Barry ADAMS (Age 43) of 97 Crag Road, Windhill, Shipley was given a confiscation order of £13,975 which was determined by the Court as the available amount of his realisable assets. He was ordered to pay this within six months or face a further nine months imprisonment. The benefit of ADAM’s criminal conduct was determined by the Court to be £472,544.97.
David Patrick KELLY (Age 30) of 61 Bradford Road, Manchester was given a nominal confiscation order of £1 as he did not have any realisable assets . The benefit of KELLY’s criminal conduct was determined by the Court to be £86,000.
Paul CLEMENTS (age 36) from the Romley area, Greater Manchester, was given a confiscation order of £101,000 which was determined by the Court as the available amount of his realisable assets. He was ordered to pay this within six months or face a further two years imprisonment.
Compensation totalling £44,430.20 was ordered to be paid by CLAUS to 19 of the victims from the monies confiscated.
When passing the original sentences in December 2012, His Honour Judge Kearl QC had said that the defendants operated in a culture of deception which was widespread and deliberate. In making the Confiscation Order against CLAUS today Judge Kearl said “You have never paid income tax or completed a self assessment. You disguised your true identity to conduct business in cash and have done everything possible to thwart the confiscation process.”
CLAUS had received a total of three years imprisonment and was banned from being a director for five years. He was later sentenced to a further nine months for contempt of court when he failed to reveal his full assets to the investigation team.
The investigation into CLAUS’ assets involved the seizure and compulsory sale of over 100 motor vehicles including a number of high value and rare cars and motorcycles. This is believed to be the largest number of vehicles seized from one individual since the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The original investigation into rogue trading activities 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. It followed complaints received from customers who had purchased cars from Chequered Flag Cars and Bikes between September 2009 and August 2010.
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 were 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.
Sentences handed out to CLAUS’ co-defendants at hearings in late 2012 and early 2013 were: BRAY two years imprisonment and banned from being a company director for five years; FIRTH 2 years imprisonment; ADAMS 12 months imprisonment; KELLY 15 months imprisonment and CLEMENTS five months imprisonment.
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Safer Communities, said: “Our expert investigators are to be congratulated on helping secure convictions for these perpetrators in the UK’s largest such case to date. Making these sentenced fraudsters repay a significant proportion of their ill-gotten gains will hopefully deter them and others from committing fraud. This outcome really does confirm that crime does not pay.”
Lord Toby Harrris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “When buying a car, people should be able to trust that the dealer is being honest about its history and ultimately, that they are buying a vehicle that is safe for them and their family. These criminals were calculated and heartless and put lives at risk across the country. I am delighted to see that having been convicted and imprisoned, they are now being made to pay in cold hard cash for the harm they have caused.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact the regional Scambuster office on 01904 551502.
For more general enquiries regarding the National Trading Standards Board please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
About the National Trading Standards Board
The National Trading Standards Board 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 as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The National Trading Standards Board funds the Scambuster Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1.Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CeNTSA)
2.North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3.Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4.Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5.Tri Region Scambusters (TRS), on behalf of Trading Standards South East Ltd (TSSEL), East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and London Trading Standards Association (LoTSA)
6.Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7.Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8.Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
For more information please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk.