A Derry man has been given a suspended prison sentence for defrauding an internet car buying firm out of almost £115,000.
Raymond Walker (41) pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud by abuse of his position with WeBuyAnyCar.com over a three month period.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Walker, of Westlake in the city, was employed as a car purchaser for the company at its premises on Falcon Road, Belfast between June and September 2012.
A prosecuting solicitor told the court that Walker’s job was to buy cars from customers and reimburse them with the proceeds of the sale.
However, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland heard that Walker had diverted the money into another account he had set up.
The first car he bought was a BMW 325 which he sold for £13,792.
However, the court heard that instead of reimbursing the customer, Walker used the money “to clear off his debts”.
It was only when a second vehicle was sold for £19,555 that Walker was then able to reimburse the vendor of the BMW.
But “wheels came off the fraud” in September 2012 when customers complained to WeBuyAnyCar.com about the length of delay in receiving their money back from the car sales.
The court heard that as a result of the complaints, the company’s internal fraud unit carried out an investigation and audit of its sales.
The prosecuting solicitor said: “When challenged by the head of the fraud unit, Mr Walker admitted the fraud on a total of 11 transactions and said he had been using the money to pay off debts.’’
The married father was later arrested and made full admissions. The total amount outstanding to WeBuyAnyCar.com was £31,716.53p.
A defence barrister told Judge McFarland that Walker had a clear record and up until the offences had an exemplary employment career. He had hit financial hardship during the property crash on properties he was renting in the North West.
Walker had fallen behind in his rate payments to Land and Property Services and as a result he was bankrupted.
None of the customers had been left out of pocket and it was Walker’s intention to pay all the money back to his former employer.
The defence lawyer said Walker’s wife was prepared to sell her flower shop to help settle her husband’s debts.
Judge McFarland said the case was a “clear breach of trust’’ and a “custodial sentence was inevitable’’.
However, the judge said he was using his discretionary powers not to jail Walker immediately because of his full admissions, early guilty plea and previous clear record.
Walker was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years.
The judge also made a confiscation order for £31,716.53p to WeBuyAnyCar.com to be paid in full in six months.