NewsNorthern Ireland

Motorhome dealer jailed for three years over fraud

A businessman who admitted defrauding more than £400,000 from 15 motorhome owners has been jailed for three years, the BBC reports.

Lancelot William Walker, 61, director at Motorhome Ireland Ltd, was sentenced at Newry Crown Court on Wednesday.

The court heard how many of Walker’s 15 victims were elderly and vulnerable motorhome owners.

Walker told his victims he would sell their motorhomes and deliver the proceeds of the sale to them or use their profits towards payment for another motorhome.

The sentencing comes after Walker entered guilty pleas to 16 dishonesty offences, committed between 22 August 2005 and 21 August 2008.

These included 14 counts of fraud by false representation and single charges of obtaining property by deception and concealing criminal property.

In addition to the jail sentence, Walker was barred from being a director of any limited company for 10 years.

Judge Gordon Kerr KC said his offences were aggravated because of the length of time over which his crimes were committed, the amount of money involved and the multiple victims impacted.

Many of them lost significant sums of money which will never be repaid.

For many of the victims, including one who has since passed away, their motorhomes were sold and there was evidence of the proceeds going into the company’s bank account but no trace of money going back to the customer.

For the most part “they never saw their money” and for the two who did, cheques they were given later bounced.

The court heard the total proceeds of sales of motorhomes belonging to others amounted to about £418,495.

The judge said a chartered accountant employed to conduct a full audit of the company’s finances found “significant and unexplained trading losses, vehicles were being double financed, there was retaining money due to be paid to customers, retention of deposits paid for motorhomes to a value of £179,000 and there was no payment of debts”.

The audit also uncovered “unexplained payments to directors including a £51,000 withdrawal which was transferred to the defendant”.

The judge told the court he had a number of victim impact statements which evidence the “devastating effect” of the frauds upon them.

“In each case substantial sums of money were lost to them with no prospect of recompense,” he said.

Walker was interviewed a number of times in 2009 but denied any wrongdoing, claiming he was not fully aware of the company’s financial problems.

The judge said there had clearly been a breach of the defendant’s right to have his case dealt with “within a reasonable time”, highlighting there were 14 years between his interview at the beginning of the legal process and the hearing.

He said that delay negated the “serious aggravating factor” of Walker’s previous conviction for fraud and obtaining property by deception, adding that he would also decrease the final prison sentence in recognition of the significant delay.

The judge added that there was also mitigation in that Walker had entered a guilty plea which was “welcomed” by the PPS, and expressed remorse.

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