A skilled mechanic who was jailed after a tracker device led police investigating the theft of a car to his home has been ordered to pay £10,000 or face going back to prison.
Andrew Morris has already served the 15-month term he was given in 2012 for concealing criminal property and a separate insurance fraud offence.
But since then there has been a lengthy investigation into his finances under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
And following a disputed hearing, a judge at Warwick Crown Court ruled that Morris’s benefit from his dishonesty was only the £10,000 value of the stolen VW Golf found at his home.
So Judge Alan Parker ordered that Morris, 45, of Warwick Road, Wolston, should pay £10,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act within six months – or face six months in prison in default.
And assuring the judge that Morris, whose assets were said to be the £180,000 value of his home, would pay the money in time, his barrister Simon Ward said: “He’s already served a prison sentence for the offence – he doesn’t want to go away again.”
During the original hearing the court heard that a VW Golf owned by Leamington man David Glover in January 2010.
Fortunately his car was fitted with a tracker device, and the signal was quickly traced to Morris’s address.
When officers first arrived Morris’s partner refused to let them in - so they returned with a warrant and found the Golf in a workshop with its doors and boot lid missing and engine parts having been removed.
When he was later arrested Morris said he had not been there since the morning of the previous day.
But he was shown to be lying when the police seized a recording from Morris’s own security camera which showed him going in and out of the workshop between 10 and 11pm, at a time when the Golf was being stripped down.
While on bail for that offence Morris had bought a written-off Vauxhall Corsa for £950.
His partner insured it for £8,000 - and two months later made an insurance claim, saying it had been stolen while they were in an Indian restaurant.
But there was no glass in the road where the Corsa was said to have been parked and, with it having an individualised electronic key entry system, it would have been hard to get in and start without the key.
The insurance company was suspicious, so did not pay out, and when the police checked ANPR camera records the car did not show up on a one anywhere in the Midlands, showing it had not been on the road from the day it had been bought.
During the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing prosecutor Richard Gibbs suggested that Morris’s house and the work done on it could be taken to indicate he had benefited more from criminal activity than just the VW Golf.
But, questioned by Mr Ward, Morris said he worked as a mechanic restoring cars, for which he got paid in cash, and that he had done a lot of the work on the house himself.
Ruling that Morris’s benefit from crime was the £10,000 value of the Golf, Judge Parker said: “There is no doubt in my mind that he is a skilful restorer of motor vehicles and also an industrious man who had aspirations as to the type of house he wished to live in.
“He says he has been a repairer or mechanic for many years, and I am satisfied that such an assertion is consistent with the work he completed on a vehicle which attracted the interest of the specialist press.
“I have been driven to the conclusion that Mr Morris did indeed repair motor cars, and that he did so for cash and avoided paperwork, and also avoided paying income tax.
“The sporadic improvements to his house are as consistent with him trading in cash as with the prosecution assertions.
“Once I have accepted he made a reasonable income as a mechanic I conclude there is no extravagance inconsistent with his income and the job of work he did.”
And of the insurance offence, the judge added: “He received neither actual nor notional value for his efforts.”