A gang of dodgy car dealers will be sentenced next month after selling potentially dangerous second hand cars from a Hipperholme garage.
Five men were found guilty after an eight-week trial at Leeds Crown Court of conspiring to defraud customers of Chequered Flag Car Sales and other companies trading from Halifax Road, Hipperholme.
Disgruntled customers complained of:
* Insurance write-offs being sold as “immaculate inside and out.”
* Vehicles sold with false mileage readings.
* Vehicles sold with full manufacturer’s service history” when no such history existed.
* Vehicles sold with various disguised faults such as a sand filled radiator and false warranties.
Kirk Claus, 47, of Slate Delf Farm, Cragg Vale; Craig Firth, 51, of Mossey Bank Close, Queensbury; Michael Adams, 41, of Shipley; David Ingham, 42, of Wallwood Avenue, Halifax; and David Kelly, 28, of Stockport, will be sentenced on September 27. All five were also convicted of money laundering.
A sixth man, Paul Clements, 36, of Manchester, was convicted of a charge relating to criminal property and another man Peter Bray, 57, of Blackpool, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing of conspiracy to defraud. June Claus, wife of Kirk Claus, was acquitted of money laundering.
The court case resulted from an investigation by the Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards Scambuster Team supported by police after a spate of complaints between September 2009 and August 2010.
Leeds Crown Court was told 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 defendants.
During interview most of the defendants refused to comment.
Scambuster spokesman Colin Rumford said the defendants now faced the prospect of jail terms.
“This was a very long and difficult investigation frustrated by the lack of co-operation by the defendants,” he said.
“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.”
It is not the first time Kirk Claus has ripped off motorists in Calderdale.
In 1994 the Courier exposed his antics at White Lee Garage, Mytholmroyd, after dozens of complaints from dissatisfied car buyers.
That garage, Claus, and his associates, used several different names and after a probe by trading standards Claus was fined several thousand pounds.
He was described as the ringleader at Leeds Crown Court by prosecuting barrister Deborah Sherwin.
She said he was involved throughout and many witnesses spoke of him being referred to as “the boss.”
“A noticeable feature of Claus’ dealings with unsatisfied customers is that he becomes abusive and threatening when complaints are made,” she said.
The court was told that Kenneth Hancox bought a Toyota Landcruiser for £24,000 after being told by Claus over the phone it was unmarked and as new condition.
When it was delivered to his home in Oxfordshire it was a mess with a long list of faults and when he again spoke to Claus on the phone he was offered £20,000.
“When Mr Hancox said he was not happy and that the law entitled him to a full refund, Kirk Claus said: ‘I don’t give a s... about the law. I’ve never given a refund in all the years I’ve been trading and I’m not giving one now’.”
A search of HMRC records revealed Claus didn’t declare any income between 2005 and 2010 and an income of £6,000 for 2010-11 stating he was employed by Chequered Flag Cars and Bikes Ltd.
Claus made no reply to any questions asked of him when interviewed at Halifax Police Station.