Shipston car broker jailed over £300k scam

Court news.
Court news.

A car broker from Shipston and his accomplice were jailed after being found guilty of scamming customers out of more than £300,000.

Nicholas O’Neil, 47, of Sheep Street, and David Chandler, 49, of Prince Philip Avenue, Grays, Essex, were sentenced for a collective total of eight years at St Albans Crown Court on June 21.

During a trial that lasted six weeks, the court heard how O’Neil was sole director of company Drive Direct and Chandler ran a similar firm in Hertfordshire.

The pair, who are both from New Zealand originally, knew each other well and plotted a scheme to extract money from car dealers and buyers who had approached them wanting to purchase top-of the range super cars such as Ferraris, Bentleys and Porsches.

The cars were said to be so exclusive that they needed to be built to order – a process that normally takes between 18 months and two years.

Chandler and O’Neil took £334,000 from a total of seven victims between December, 2014, and December, 2016, fabricating documents allowing customers to believe their cars had been ordered.

It was only when one of the victims became suspicious about the length of time it was taking and the lack of action from Chandler and O’Neil that he went to the police. The remaining six victims then stepped forward too.

The court heard that Chandler used around £91,000 of the cash to prop up his failing business while O’Neil frittered the rest away on day-to-day living, including regular trips to the pub.

Investigator Alan Mordey, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s serious fraud and cyber unit, said: “This was a complicated and protracted investigation but all the hard work was worth it to see the sentences handed down by His Honour Judge Jonathan Carroll.

“Chandler and O’Neil were bold in their crimes, taking large sums of money from innocent people in exchange for an exclusive service they had absolutely no intention of providing.

“It was only when one of the victims realised something was not right, after being fobbed off one too many times, and informed the police that the fraud was discovered. The full scale of their offending was later uncovered when more victims stepped forward.

“I hope both Chandler and O’Neil use their time in prison to reflect on their actions, and the fact that they are now behind bars will be a comfort to their victims.”

O’Neil was found guilty of one count of transferring criminal property, six counts of fraud by false representation and one count of theft.

Chandler was found guilty of one count of transferring criminal property and two counts of fraud by false representation.

Both have also been banned from being company directors for seven and five years respectively.

A compensation order to retrieve some of the victims’ lost funds has also been applied for.