Jail for bankrupt Newmarket car dealer who left customers across the country £35,000 out of pocket

Richard Palmer, who ran Hammond Autos Ltd in Newmarket, has been jailed for four years. Picture: SUF

Richard Palmer, who ran Hammond Autos Ltd in Newmarket, has been jailed for four years. Picture: SUFFOLK POLICE - Credit: Archant

A bankrupt used car dealer who left more than 30 customers £35,000 out of pocket has been jailed for four years.

Richard Palmer, who ran Hammond Autos Ltd in Newmarket, pocketed customer deposits and sold the same car to more than one customer, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Customers who paid in full were given excuses about why their cars hadn’t been delivered and why their money couldn’t be refunded, said Christopher Kerr, prosecuting.

In January 2014, following a visit from Suffolk Trading Standards officers as a result of complaints, Palmer resigned as sole director of the company and was replaced by his wife, although he continued to operate the business.

In April 2014 he received a letter from Trading Standards after further complaints were received and in March 2015 Trading Standards officers and police went to the Newmarket premises with a search warrant.

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Palmer pretended to be an employee but was caught out when one of the officers called his mobile phone and it rang in his pocket - forcing Palmer to admit who he was.

Mr Kerr said victims of Palmer’s fraudulent trading came from up and down the country as a result of him advertising cars on eBay. “They were fobbed off with lies and excuses as to why cars couldn’t be delivered and had wasted trips to Newmarket as well as repeated promises to repay them,” said Mr Kerr.

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Palmer, 51, of Bury Farm, Great Canfield, Dunmow, admitted acting as a director of a company while bankrupt, obtaining credit and attempting to obtain credit as a bankrupt, fraud by false representation and fraudulent trading.

The court heard that his benefit from offending was £55,000 but as he has no assets a nominal £1 confiscation order was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.

The court heard that Palmer was made bankrupt in 2003 and 2007 and had obtained loans for thousands of pounds without declaring he was a bankrupt.

In June 2015 “realising the game was up” with Hammond Autos Ltd because of disgruntled creditors he had used the alternative trading name of SKW Cars.

Frank Harris said Palmer’s financial problems had spiralled out of control and he had “robbed Peter to pay Paul”.

He said Palmer’s business hadn’t been a sham company from the outset and some customers were given their cars or refunds if they “complained enough”.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection, said: “Richard Palmer ran a fraudulent business, which has taken thousands of pounds from many consumers who believed they were buying a vehicle from a genuine trader.

“The offences have been committed over a sustained period, causing distress and financial difficulties for the victims, who have lost deposits and, in some cases full payment for vehicles they never received.”

Andy Jones of the Insolvency Service Criminal Enforcement team, said: “Richard Palmer has simply been ripping people off. Members of the public have lost a great deal of money, that they could ill afford to lose.

“The sentence handed out in this case should serve as a warning to others that this sort of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.”

If you need advice or wish to report an individual or company to Trading Standards, calling Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 040506.

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