Fife car dealer jailed for ‘clocking’ scam
A crooked car dealer has been jailed for seven months for repeatedly clocking the mileage on vehicles in a £18,000 scam.
Conman Joseph Lowther sold cars around the country after tampering with their mileage readings to bump up the price on vehicles which were not even safe to be on the road.
He left a string of unsatisfied customers across Scotland who suddenly found Lowther was impossible to contact after he had their money.
When police raided his home they found him hiding in a bedroom cupboard.
Lowther is the managing director of JL Cars, which operated from his home in Cowdenbeath High Street.
He would buy motors from the Central Car Auctions in Glasgow, alter the mileage and advertise them on Gumtree at inflated prices.
Lowther (37), of Johnston Park, Cowdenbeath, appeared for sentencing at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.
He previously admitted that between 6th June and 20th October 2014 he formed a fraudulent scheme and committed offences at Peterborough, Kilwinning, Cowdenbeath, Aberdeen, St Andrews and elsewhere.
On each occasion he tampered with the mileage to show a lower figure.
He pretended to Geovan Boreman that a Vauxhall Zafira he was buying had a lower recorded mileage that its true mileage, having altered it and obtained £1900 by fraud.
Mr Boreman was told the car had 80,000 miles on the clock but it had been over 116,000 when he bought it at auction the previous month.
He agreed to buy it and paid over the phone. The car was left at Kilwinning rail station for Mr Boreman.
Depute fiscal Dev Kapadia told the court, “He found the vehicle to be in a poor state of repair with several faults, including an oil leak, water pump leak, engine noise, rust, dents a boot that wouldn’t open and faults with the front and rear headlights.”
Lowther committed the same offence on Lorna Harley, selling her a Land Rover Freelander and obtaining £3000 by fraud. Lowther told her the car’s mileage was 85,000 but it had been over 121,000 when he bought it a month before.
Immediately after buying the car the new owner found an electric window was not working and when the car was taken to a local garage they found “several alarming faults including eroded brake pipes” said Mr Kapadia.
Lowther also obtained £3000 fraudulently from Anthony Jones, over the sale of a Land Rover Freelander.
Mr Jones phoned Lowther in response to an advert was told the mileage was 76,000, there was a full year’s MOT and the car was “immaculate”.
He paid for the car over the phone but when the car was left for him at a car park in Aberdeen “he was shocked at the state of the interior”.
He carried out his own online checks and discovered the vehicle’s mileage had been over 144,000 a year earlier.
Colin Stevenson was also conned out of £3000, when he bought a Land Rover Freelander.
Robert Paterson was another victim over the sale of a VW Fox, where £1575 was obtained fraudulently.
This new owner was told the car had one year’s MOT, a new clutch and one previous owner. Less than three weeks after buying it Mr Paterson discovered several defects including a faulty clutch.
“He took it to a local garage where they confirmed the car required immediate attention to make it roadworthy.”
Becky Anderson bought Mini Cooper and was conned out of £3000. The mileage reading showed 60,000 but it had been at over 137,000 two weeks earlier.
Lowther defrauded Richard Grant out of £850 in the sale of a Toyota Celica.
Another victim of the clocking scam was Richard McDade, defrauded out of £1900 when he bought a Vauxhall Astra.
The court heard that Lowther had lived in England previously and had a conviction for forgery there.
Despite this he had recently been able to take over as licence holder in a Cowdenbeath pub.
Defence solicitor Matthew Berlow said his client was father of five children.
He added although his client was from a travellers background he had now settled in Fife. “He doesn’t have the transient lifestyle associated with the travelling community,” said the solicitor.
Sheriff Charles MacNair told Lowther, “These people would not have bought these vehicles if they had known the true position.
“With clocking the financial aspect is not the only one to consider. There is also the public safety aspect.”
Lowther was jailed for 215 days.