Car buyers conned
Middle-aged couple conned used car buyers out of thousands with 'phantom' website then spent money on luxury hotels and renting apartments
- Paul Humphries, 51, and Linda Holden, 55, posed online as car traders
- They tricked victims in to paying upfront for cars which did not exist
- Then used the money to pursue a life of luxury
- Both were jailed at Worcester Crown Court this week
A middle-aged couple have been jailed for conning car buyers out of £120,000 with a string of fake websites.
Paul Humphries, 51, and Linda Holden, 55, advertised fake cars on websites including Auto Trader and made potential buyers pay upfront for cars which never arrived.
They were jailed this week at Worcester Crown Court for the fraud, which they used to fund their life of luxury.
Paul Humphries (left) pleaded guilty to fraud and Linda Holden (right) to money laundering
Humphries pleaded guilty to fraud, and was jailed for four years, while Holden pleaded guilty to money laundering and received a sentence of eight months.
The couple, from Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, using a string of false names, and would agree prices with buyers over the internet.
They even arranged deliveries of the cars - which would never arrive. Holden would then make excuses to their angry victims, before eventually ending contact altogether.
The money from the fake cars funded them ‘living the high life’ in luxury rented homes and hotels. They spent months on the run, leaving a trail of unpaid bills and furious customers.
The coucple used the website for Castle TT Ltd to con used car buyers
The fraud began with a company the pair founded called Castle Prestige Ltd, which offered vehicles in the Worcester area and made them £46,891.
They listed their non-existent cars in the specialist section of the Auto Trader website, where it is common practice for buyers to pay up front for cars.
Even after police arrested the couple in July last year, they brazenly set up another fraudulent website, Castle TT, while on bail, claiming they ’will not be beaten on price, quality and service’.
The site said: 'For fantastic offers and great choice Castle TT is your number one secondhand car dealer.
'Here at Castle TT we pride ourselves on sourcing and offering a fantastic range of cars to suit every need and pocket.'
Then in October and November of last year they returned to Auto Trader, and pulled off six more bogus sales for between £4,500 and £10,500. They went on the run before being arrested again in Manchester this May.
They claimed to be legitimate traders with years of experience
After the sentencing, Detective Constable Gary Scales of Lancashire Constabulary said: ‘Victims of this crime lived all over the UK and have been left out of pocket by these people.
‘This couple took advantage of the trust that most motor dealers place on each other and have left many feeling like they committed a schoolboy error.
‘They were living the high life staying in luxury houses and hotels all paid for by the money they stole.’
Humphries and Holden agreed price online and arranged deliveries, but the cars did not exist
But police believe the fraud could have been even larger than expected, as many victims may not yet have come forward.
In an appeal released while the pair were on the run, a spokesman said: ‘The fraud has been carried out systematically and there are probably victims out there that we are not aware of. It is a large amount of money and that’s just what we know about. This might be the tip of the iceberg.
‘Cars were advertised via the trader’s section of Auto Trader, and apparently it is quite common for traders to ask for payment up front. Because it is through the traders’ section there is a degree of trust.
‘It could be that there are more victims and people might not have come forward through embarrassment, because there’s some degree of error on the victim’s part for paying up front for goods they have not received.’
Auto Trader said it advises all customers not to part with cash until they have seen the vehicle, and to carry out thorough checks on the vehicle before agreeing to a deal.