Fraudulent car dealer jailed following investigation by Suffolk Trading Standards and Insolvency Service

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The manager of a Suffolk car dealership has been sentenced to four years in prison for scamming customers out of more than £30,000.

Richard Palmer, 51, previously of Reddings Close, Saffron Walden, pleaded guilty to eight counts which included obtaining credit as a bankrupt and fraudulent trading.

The charges, pursued by Suffolk Trading Standards and the Insolvency Service, concern Palmer’s role at Hammond Autos LTD, which was established in 2013 and operated from a forecourt in Hammond Close, Newmarket. He was sole director until January 2014, however continued to manage the business until it ceased trading in the summer of 2015.

Suffolk Trading Standards began to investigate Palmer and the business when a theme emerged with complaints – these generally involved consumers paying deposits or full payment for vehicles, that were never received.

In March 2015, the forecourt was inspected. Computers, mobile phones and documents were seized. Complaints of the same nature continued and in July of that year a warrant was executed at Palmer’s home where more evidence was seized.

It emerged that the Insolvency Service Criminal Enforcement Team were also investigating Richard Palmer, and as such the two agencies worked together to pursue the criminal offences.

More than 30 witness statements were taken from consumers who paid the company between £200 and £2,500 without receiving the vehicle they paid for, or a full refund. These offences dated back to March 2013, and another two statements were taken from people who gave their car to Palmer to sell, but failed to receive either the car or any money from the sale.

Palmer, who was also banned from being a director for 10 years, will spend half of the sentence on license.

Upon sentencing, at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Levett said Palmer lost his “moral compass” and added:

“Some victims were vulnerable, you made lives unbearable.

“Honesty and transparency are strangers to you. I conclude that you lied every time your lips moved, lies dropped off your tongue.”

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection, said:

“Richard Palmer ran a fraudulent business, which has taken thousands of pounds from many consumers who believed they were buying a vehicle from a genuine trader.

“The offences have been committed over a sustained period, causing distress and financial difficulties for the victims, who have lost deposits and in some cases, full payment, for vehicles they never received.

“This is an excellent example of good partnership working between Suffolk Trading Standards and the Insolvency Service Criminal Enforcement team to secure a successful prosecution of this individual.”

Andy Jones, of the Insolvency Service Criminal Enforcement team, said:

“Richard Palmer has simply been ripping people off. Members of the public have lost a great deal of money, that they could ill afford to lose.

“The Insolvency Service with partners like Trading Standards is committed to bringing to justice those offenders that breach company law and set up companies in order to defraud the public.

“The sentence handed out in this case should serve as a warning to others that this sort of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.”

If you need advice or wish to report an individual or company to Trading Standards, you can do so by calling Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.