Car importer is jailed for fraud

LORNA MARSH A businessman who defrauded nearly £200,000 from customers in a fruitless bid to “rob Peter to pay Paul” wept when he was jailed for a year. Single father David Grace, 48, who ran car import business Dacar Imports UK, admitted eight deception and fraud charges and asked for 10 other offences to be taken into consideration.

LORNA MARSH

A businessman who defrauded nearly £200,000 from customers in a fruitless bid to “rob Peter to pay Paul” wept when he was jailed for a year.

Single father David Grace, 48, who ran car import business Dacar Imports UK, admitted eight deception and fraud charges and asked for 10 other offences to be taken into consideration.

Norwich Crown Court had previously ordered him to pay back more than £24,000 of the £183,747 lost by customers or face 18 months in jail.

The court heard that the offences, involving customers who bought cars but never received their orders or a refund, started in October 2002.

Grace, of Whipps Lane, Fundenhall, near Wymondham, ordered a car for a customer that was delayed and then bore the wrong specification when it did finally arrive.

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But rather than issue a refund he used the customer's money to fund further transactions.

Luke Brown, prosecuting, said Grace had doctored paperwork to make it appear to customers as if their orders had been made and that he had paid the wholesalers, lied about refunds issued cheques which then bounced.

Richard Wood, defending, said: “This is a case of a man who didn't intentionally set off to trade in a fraudulent manner but someone who get himself through inexperience, naivety and pressure of the situation into a terrible muddle then tries to trade his way out of it… to find himself in this position is as much to his surprise as anyone else's.”

Mr Wood said that for the most part the business had been run honestly with 10 months of fraudulent trading.

He said his client was a single father of two teenage daughters who he had to support, suffered from stress-related psoriasis and had already paid back £26,000 to customers thanks to a new sales career.

He added the court order to pay back a further £24,723 involved Grace giving up his pension.

“He has problems with his health… for the past two or three years it could be said he has already been serving a sentence,” Mr Wood said.

Judge Simon Barham was prevented from handing out a suspended sentence now available for such cases due to a recent change in law because the offences were carried out before the amendment.

“I appreciate that the business was run honestly for a number of years,” the judge said.

“You continued to trade in the hope you would be in a position to pay off your debts, in effect you were robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Grace was jailed for 12 months, of which he will serve six with the remainder on license.