A Copthorne and an East Grinstead resident are facing a possible jail sentence following a West Sussex County Council trading standards investigation that uncovered a massive rogue car dealer scam.
A county council statement says that a jury on Monday found Linda Atrell, 48, of Railway Approach, East Grinstead, guilty of charges under the Fraud Act, Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 and Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 Act, following a trial at Brighton Crown Court.
The statements adds that Lucien Munn, 52, of Beechey Way, Copthorne, had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences.
The pair had been advertising and selling hundreds of cars that had been written off by insurance companies via Autotrader and Gumtree under a range of different trading names in a scam thought to be worth £100,000.
The county council says that in one of the biggest trading standards investigations of recent years, the WSCC team discovered the pair were systematically buying insurance write-offs and then selling those vehicles without declaring that they had been written off to unsuspecting customers.
They were also falsifying service histories in order to make the vehicles appear more attractive to buyers and giving customers the impression that they were dealing with a private seller.
The court heard during the trial that the pair also described the vehicles as “sold as seen” on purchase invoices to try and avoid liability under civil legislation for the sale of faulty or misdescribed goods.
The trading standards team spent months investigating the pair following a complaint from a customer and collected more than 64 statements from buyers and previous vehicle owners.
David Barling, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for residents’ services with responsibility for trading standards, praised the team behind the investigation and the convictions. He said: “This is a great result, not just for West Sussex Trading Standards but for our consumers whose lives were being put in danger by these rogue car dealers.
“Throughout the course of this investigation our team spoke with customers who had real horror stories about the state of cars they purchased. We’re lucky nobody was involved in a serious accident.
“This sends a really serious warning message to anyone thinking of trying this sort of scam.”
Richard Sargeant, West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager, added: “Second hand car sales are one of the issues that cause the most consumer complaints.
“Conning the public in this manner is simply not acceptable and we would encourage consumers to consider using a trader from the Buy with Confidence scheme, the members of which are audited and approved by Trading Standards. Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice, should contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06 or www.westsussex.gov.uk/TSreport.”
The council statement says that a Proceeds of Crime Act application was made to confiscate money made from the criminal activity and that the pair will be sentenced at Brighton Crown Court on Friday, July 31. They have been warned that they could face a jail sentence.
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