A veteran conman has been ordered to repay £25,000 he swindled out of car sellers in Devon or go to jail.
David Thoms, aged 63, ran a crooked car dealing business in Newton Abbot in which he claimed to be buying or selling vehicles on behalf of customers but ended up pocketing the money.
He has a 40-year-long career of dishonesty in which he has worked similar scams in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, and Bodmin, Exeter Crown Court was told.
He set up he latest dodgy company in Newton Abbot and traded under the names of Priceright Motors and Hot Car Wash before doing a bunk and being traced by police to Sussex.
Thoms, now of Thorncroft, Steyning, admitted two offences of fraud and was jailed or six months, suspended for a year, ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work, and pay £24,824.02 compensation and £340 costs.
Recorder Mr William Andreae-Jones told him:”These were mean and unpleasant offences. You really are too old to be behaving like this and there is an indication you understand that.”
He told him if the compensation is not paid he risks being brought back to court and his sentence could be activated.
Mr Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, said Thoms traded under different company names in and around Newton Abbot and his first victim was a local man who was selling a £17,000 motor home.
Thoms told him he had found a buyer in Bridgwater but the money would take some time to clear and paid him just £500 as a down payment.
In reality he had sold the motorhome to a reputable dealership in Preston, Paignton, for £4,250 cash and taken two cars worth a total of more than £12,000 in part exchange.
When the seller tried to contact him he vanished until police tracked him down in Sussex.
While operating on a trading estate in Newton Abbot he also befriended a businessman who had the next door unit to his Priceright Motors and told him he could get him a cheap Transit and cut price storage units and security fencing.
The victim handed over a total of £7,200 but ended up even more out of pocket because he took out a loan to cover some of the cost.
Mr Chaplin said Thoms has 45 previous offences, almost all for fraud, deception or forgery, dating back to 1971. They include similar swindles while running Bodmin Auto Sales in the 1990 and a dealership in Landkey Road, Barnstaple in the 2000s.
Among his victims in North Devon was a man from Ilfracombe who paid him £650 for a catering van which never materialised and a Barnstaple builder who handed over £1,750 for a digger and never saw Thoms again.
Mr Chaplin said:”It is our case that at the age of 63 his record indicates an entrenched pattern of fraud and deception.”
Mr Martin Salloway, defending, said in the two years since the most recent offences took place Thoms has started a new relationship with a woman from Sussex who runs her own business.
He has also started his own legitimate enterprise and is determined to trade honestly in the future and has saved £1,000 to start repaying his victims.