Rogue car dealer Paul Cugley jailed for 'persistent and heartless fraud'
A ROGUE car dealer who sold cars with fake warranties and MOTs – including one to a terminal cancer patient – has been jailed for 16 months.
A judge told Paul Cugley that he had been involved in a "calculated, persistent, determined and heartless fraud" as he sent him to prison.
Cugley pleaded guilty to fraudulently trading cars in South Gloucestershire which earned him more than £73,000, Bristol Crown Court heard.
The former South Gloucestershire resident, now living in Devon, admitted fraud and fraudulent trading offences after selling 16 cars to customers who he deceived into thinking they had features which didn't exist.
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He traded under the names of Sanmax Performance Limited in Longwell Green and South West Voyagers in Hanham, selling vehicles on the internet which he falsely described as having a 12 month warranty, 12 month MOT, full service history or luxury extras.
When people started using the vehicles they often found the warranties, servicing promises and extras didn't exist and though Cugley then said he would put things right, he failed to do so.
The Recorder of Bristol Judge Neil Ford QC told Cugley: "This is a case of calculated, persistent, determined and heartless fraud."
The judge fined the company, which is now to be struck off, a "purely technical" £100 and disqualified Cugley from being a company director for ten years.
One victim was Tina Thompson, whose husband John had terminal cancer and needed a vehicle with wheelchair access.
Richard O'Sullivan, prosecuting, said the Keynsham couple paid £2,500 for a Chrysler Voyager which supposedly was fully serviced, with an MOT and 12 months' warranty.
He told the court: "Mrs Thompson had a problem with the gears and he (Cugley) said he would sort it out.
"The gears were not fixed and the car only started with a jump start.
"The vehicle broke down on several occasions and was never properly repaired.
"In November 2011 the vehicle was taken back and was not returned."
The court heard of several other customers who suffered similar tales of woe – all of who can now consider taking civil action against Cugley.
The criminal prosecution was brought by trading standards officers from South Gloucestershire Council after they received complaints from the public about Cugley's activities.
He admitted making an illegitimate profit from dishonest vehicle sales when he appeared at court on January 31, when he also entered a guilty plea on behalf of his company Sanmax Performance Limited. The company was charged with fraudulent trading.
The court heard Cugley would operate a "bait and switch" system – hooking in customers by advertising vehicles and then offering them alternative motors.
Jane Chamberlin, defending, said: "He knows that his behaviour is appalling.
"He accepts he has treated these people despicably over a continuous period."
Miss Chamberlin said her client set up the car dealing business in Longwell Green, where his brother was a mechanic, but due to Cugley's incompetence the business declined, his home was repossessed and some customers' cars ended up in rented accommodation which was seized by his landlord.
Sadly, Cugley's customer John Thompson has since died of cancer.
His widow Tina, 48, said: "Sixteen months is not long enough but I'm very happy he's got justice.
"We got the car for wheelchair access and we ended up having to go out and get another vehicle at great expense.
"I haven't seen the car we bought from Mr Cugley since. My husband was in contact with Mr Cugley's father, but I have had no contact with him.
"All I know is I have to SORN it every year to declare that it is off the road.
"I can't afford a civil action, my husband died on November 5 last year and I have had to go back out to work since."
Cllr Claire Young, chair of Communities Committee for the council, said: "Businesses acting dishonestly will not be tolerated in South Gloucestershire.
"I strongly support the action taken by Trading Standards and I hope this investigation will act as a deterrent to other traders seeking to earn a dishonest living."
Mark Pullin, Strong, Safer Communities manager at South Gloucestershire Council, added: "The majority of traders working in this field are responsible business owners who are trying to make a living but there are a minority who act irresponsibly and it is these traders who we will target and prosecute where necessary."