A SCAM saw damaged and faulty cars sold to customers – some of whom were threatened with having their legs broken when they complained.

Multiple names were set up for the dodgy firm which operated on spare land on Knutsford Road in Latchford.

The group were stopped when Trading Standards investigated – despite the company threatening to 'strangle them'.

Some cars had broken petrol caps, no head rests and broken keys while vehicle mileage had also been altered. Refunds were routinely refused.

Customers lost at least £15,000.

William Drinkwater, Peter Coulton, Dominic Jones and Matthew Amery appeared in Chester Crown Court on Monday.

Ringleader Drinkwater and Coulton have both previously been prosecuted for similar offences.

Jones, Coulton and Drinkwater all mislead customers, were aggressive in recovering vehicles, obtaining money and avoiding refunds.

Amery played a much smaller role.

Malcolm Hope, prosecuting, told the court how Drinkwater, 42, played the leading role in the operation by selling damaged and faulty cars and using threats and aggression to prevent people going to Trading Standards and refusing refunds.

Drinkwater created three companies throughout 2016; Tradecenter Warrington, Junction 19 Car Centre and National Car Credit, all operating from 280 Knutsford Road, with names chosen to obscure the identity of the trader after his previous prosecution for similar offences in 2015.

Warrington Guardian: A Google image of the site from 2017A Google image of the site from 2017

Mr Hope said in 2016, Amery, 38, was named as director of one of Drinkwater's companies at the Knutsford Road site, despite Drinkwater being in charge and Amery being used as a 'puppet' to conceal Drinkwater's trading.

Coulton, 41, also began working at the site as a salesman in 2016, having previously owned Lloyds Motor Company Ltd on Old Liverpool Road. He was also prosecuted by Trading Standards in 2016 for similar offences.

One complainant described buying a car from Coulton which was found to have a broken petrol cap, a wet floor, no head rests and a defective key.

She was told to bring it back for repair and was encouraged to take another car which she described as a mess.

When she told the company she would report them to trading standards, she was told: "Go on then and I'll strangle them, and throw them in the canal."

Other complainants who asked for refunds due to faults with the vehicles they purchased were told: "it's your problem now".

Another customer who contacted Trading Standards about being misled was told by the dealership to bring back their courtesy car or they would contact police and report it stolen.

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One complainant tried to get a refund after serious faults were found with his car including the vehicle's mileage, which showed at 58,000, but was actually in excess of 160,000 miles under inspection.

During one of his calls to the dealership to chase up a refund, he was told they would: "send someone to his home to break his legs."

The purchase price of vehicles in the case totalled £71,773, of which the financial losses to the complainants came to £15,071.68.

The court heard how Drinkwater first came to Trading Standards' attention in 2014 when they began to receive complaints from consumers about a used car dealership, Tradecentre Warrington, where Drinkwater was the director.

The company was prosecuted for consumer protection offences and the sale of unroadworthy vehicles.

Drinkwater resigned as director the day before a magistrates' court case, with Jones, 25, being appointed in his place. He entered guilty pleas on behalf of the company.

Warrington Guardian: A Google Maps view of the site in 2017A Google Maps view of the site in 2017

Daniel Gaskell, representing Drinkwater, of Jacob's Way, Pickmere, near Northwich, said his sentence could be suspended and rehabilitation and unpaid work would make a better option.

The court accepted Drinkwater's offer to pay more than £15,000 in compensation to the complainants.

Andrew Smith, speaking on behalf of Coulton, of Welwyn Close, Thelwall, said he wasn't a director at any stage during the operation.

His offer to pay £2,000 compensation was accepted.

Richard Littler, representing Jones, of The Clock Tower, Stockton Heath, said he conducted himself in a criminal way just five times through the operation and was only ever a director at Drinkwater's request.

He told the court he was merely an employee doing what Drinkwater told him to do and had no previous convictions.

Damien Nowlan, defending Amery, of St John's Avenue, Northwich, said everything he did was at the request of Drinkwater and he was targeted to become a director because he was a vulnerable individual who was easily persuaded.

He also has no previous convictions.

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Drinkwater, who admitted fraudulent trading, participation in a fraudulent business, was jailed for 20 months suspended for two years.

He must complete 200 hours of unpaid work, complete a rehabilitation activity requirement and is disqualified from being a director for 10 years.

Coulton, who admitted fraudulent trading, was jailed for 15 months suspended for 18 months and must complete 50 hours of unpaid work.

He is disqualified from being a director for 10 years.

Jones, who admitted unfair commercial practice, aggressive commercial practice. was handed a four month sentence suspended for 18 months along with a 12 month community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement.

A directors disqualification for Jones is active for five years.

Amery, who admitted Consent in an unfair commercial practice, was given a 12 month community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement.

He is disqualified from being a director for five years.


Speaking after the hearing, Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for environment and public protection, Cllr Judith Guthrie, said: "The shameful actions of these men caused a great deal of misery, stress and financial problems for a number of people.

"These convictions, following a meticulous, dedicated investigation from trading standards officers, is great news for all of those who fell victim to these individuals’ aggressive and criminal practices.

"We do all we can to protect the public against traders who would seek to deceive and defraud them.

"The successful prosecution of these men has brought an end to their fraudulent activities and sends out a clear message that we will always use the full weight of the law to bring such people to justice.

"I am pleased that we have been able to secure financial compensation for the victims, and that these men have been disqualified from serving as directors of any company for a number of years."