John Murphy, founder of PCS Chauffeurs jailed for 3 years for being part of widespread ‘clocking’ of cars “behind the veneer of respectability of the company”
Following a six week trial at Chester Crown Court, five men were sentenced on Friday last week for a total of nine and a half years for their part in a multi-million mile car clocking scam.
John Murphy, owner of PCS Chauffeurs at the time of the fraud was jailed for 3 years along with former director and his stepson, Paul Arslanian who received a custodial sentence of 27 months.
Also, the boyfriend of Laura Murphy – the current owner and majority shareholder of PCS – Christopher Lunt, who pleaded guilty after the first morning of the prosecutions’ case, was jailed for 18 months.
PCS head mechanic, Trevor Jones was also jailed for 15 months, together with Simon Williams who provided MoT’ certificates receiving 18 months.
The sentencing and successful prosecution was a result of a three-year investigation by Trading Standards. Warrington Borough Council and Halton Borough Council who said “it was the biggest probe of its kind” carried out by their Trading Standards teams.
The prosecution which was led by Mr Richard Pratt QC and Ms Nicola Miles of 7HS Chambers in Liverpool is a fantastic result and sends out a clear message. “It sends out a clear message, once again, that if you carry out fraudulent activity, we will take action against you.”, added Cllr Judith Guthrie, Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for public protection.
The defendants, who owned and worked for PCS Events Ltd, a Runcorn-based chauffeur services company, were found guilty of operating a “widespread system of clocking the cars in their possession”, according to the prosecution.
Along with ‘clocking’ allegations during the trial at Chester Crown Court, the jury heard how some of the PCS cars obtained MoTs from an accomplice mechanic without ever going for tests.
Warrington and Halton trading standards began investigating in 2013 after receiving information of alleged fraud and consumer protection offences, relating to the turning back of mileages on vehicles obtained by the company.
In a statement Trading Standards said: “The defendants sought to profit from the offence as vehicles which were subsequently sold had their sale prices inflated based upon the incorrect mileage reading.
“A huge amount of evidence was obtained – including cross referencing of fuel records for vehicles, examining finance and warranty work records and recording the accounts of people who had bought ‘clocked’ vehicles”.
Cllr Dave Cargill, of Halton Borough Council, said: “This investigation, carried out, in partnership, is the biggest investigation of its kind that either has carried out.
“It’s fantastic news that, thanks to the efforts of our dedicated officers, successful action has been taken against this widespread fraud, that has been committed for a number of years.”
Prosecuting, Mr Pratt QC and Ms Miles argued that the defendants carried out the widespread ‘clocking’ of cars “behind the veneer of respectability of the company” and that “Those who manipulate the mileage of a motor vehicle prior to its onwards sale to a third party can, we say, have one purpose in mind, It is to deceive and to defraud”
It was found that more than 100 vehicles had been “clocked” between 2008 and 2014. The minimum amount of the clocking was estimated between 7-7.5 million miles, but the true figure may never be known. During the trial Mr Arslanian told the court that PCS vehicles in 2009 were covering an average of 22,000 miles per year, increasing to around 48,000 miles in 2014, with the latest figures given to the court as an average of 60,000 miles per annum, per vehicle.
The court heard how PCS installed vehicle tracking software for the first time during 2015, ensuring mileages were tracked 24/7, and this data now ensures that it is impossible for car clocking to take place.
John Murphy, jailed for 3 years with four other men.
As well as gathering evidence against Murphy, Arslanian, Lunt, and Jones for altering the mileage of cars in the possession of PCS Events Ltd, the investigation by trading standards officers also revealed links to a Frodsham resident Simon Williams, who worked at K Motors in Leyland Lancashire, he carried out MoT testing of clocked vehicles, subsequently producing documents which showed incorrect mileage.
Automotive data experts, Cap HPI played a significant role in the investigation. Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at Cap HPI, said: “There is a clear message to clockers – it’s only a matter of time before they are caught and brought to justice. This operation forms part of HPI’s commitment to its campaign against clocking, as well as raising awareness of the value of its National Mileage Register.”
Following the convictions, Transport for London revoked PCS Events Ltd private hire operating licence and Liverpool Football Club jettisoned the firm.
PCS still hold private hire operators licenses with Halton Council obtained in 2014 and Cheshire West and Chester which was obtained in 2016.
Following the convictions The Times newspaper reported on the case, highlighting the fact that PCS continues to have the support of their biggest client, Emirates Airline, who remain committed to the firm.
Defending its stance, Emirates said in a statement: “PCS has been serving our passengers since 2007 and currently handles around 85,000 trips a year, without any incident on record.”
“As soon as our team was made aware of the outcome of this investigation, we have requested confirmation that the few convicted PCS employees are not involved with the Emirates account, furthermore, we received assurances that all drivers who serve our passengers have no criminal record”.
“PCS is duly insured and has a valid licence to operate in the UK. Should PCS fail to meet Emirates’ high standards for any reason; we will take the necessary steps to rectify the situation. The safety of our passengers is paramount and will not be compromised”, added a spokesperson.
The Times article told how Emirates had previously supported PCS, following two previous businesses run by Murphy collapsing. In 2010, PCS Contracts Ltd went out of business, owing creditors £400,000, quickly followed by PCS Shuttles Ltd eight months later, owing £1.4 million, mostly in unpaid taxes, according to The Times.
A Proceeds of Crime hearings will take place on July 28 2017, with a corporate prosecution against PCS Events Ltd scheduled for November 20, 2017, in connection with the same offences.
Murphy’s lawyers have stated that John Murphy is appealing his conviction, with all the convicted continuing to plead their innocence. Two further defendants, Laura Jayne Murphy, of Long Lane, Chester, and Kevin Paul Batty, of Sutton, in Craven, North Yorkshire, were acquitted by the jury in February this year.