PUBLISHED: 15:24 09 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:24 09 August 2018
A crooked motor home dealer from Topsham has been jailed for ripping off three customers after selling their vehicles and pocketing the money.
Mark Williams offered a sale or return service to people who wanted to market their motor homes but sold them for less than they were worth to fellow dealers.
His business in Dawlish was struggling for cash and ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. He used the money to stay afloat at the expense of three families who lost a total of £41.500.
Some of the customers went back to retrieve their motor homes from Williams’s Sunshine Leisure Caravans and Motor Homes at the Commerce Business Centre, in Dawlish, only to find it closed and the forecourt empty.
Williams, aged 47, of Somerville Crescent, Topsham, admitted three counts of fraud and was jailed for 16 months by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.
The judge told Williams: “When your business was in a parlous state, you accepted custody of three valuable motor homes. It is not the first time businesses you have run have been in trouble. You have had a number of failed businesses.
“Having sold on the motor homes for less than the sums agreed with the owners, you essentially pocketed the proceeds. It is said that you used it to pay off debts, but that provides very little mitigation.
“In 2011, you committed an almost identical offence and you have matters of dishonesty going back to when you were in your 20s.”
Miss Francesca Whebell, prosecuting, said three customers took their motor homes to Williams to sell in July 2016. They were a Mercedes Auto Trail Cheyenne, a Peugeot Boxer and a Fiat Ducato, which were valued at £20,000; £10,000 and £10,500.
The court heard how Williams sold or exchanged all three to other dealers, in one case to cover money he owed. He did not contact the owners to tell them about the sales, or pass over the money.
The owner of the Mercedes went to his forecourt to demand their money but received a cheque, which bounced; they went back and were paid £8,000 cash.
The customers all made victim statements saying they are still suffering financial hardship. One couple had had to delay their retirement and another had to move into a mobile home because of their loss.
Miss Rachel Smith, defending, said Williams was suffering from mental health problems at the time, which led to him spending time as an in-patient later in 2016.
He was also under severe financial stress and ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
The court heard how Williams hoped to get through the cash flow crisis and repay the customers. The offences were not planned or sophisticated.
His relationship with his wife has broken down since 2016 and he has lost contact with his two children.
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