A key player in a “planned and sophisticated” £60,000 motor fraud scam has finally been brought to justice – 14 years after he went on the run.
Businessman David Bowman, 63, who ran the car spraying workshop Auto Bake, in Bamber Bridge, disappeared in 1998 with an estimated £30,000 belonging to local motor dealers.
He went on the run to the United States, where he lived, undetected, for 14 years.
But in August this year, the conman was picked up by chance in a random police check close to the border of Mexico, as he transported a car from Los Angeles.
Now, after spending two months behind bars in Texas, he has been returned to the UK to face the charges, which date back to the 1990s.
Sentencing at Preston Crown Court, Recorder Sally Hatfield described the scam as “a professionally planned and sophisticated operation”, handing Bowman an 18-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months.
Between 1994 and 1996, Bowman, working in collusion with a car salesman who was based at a showroom in Leyland, bought damaged hire cars and applied for finance far in excess of their value.
A total of seven cars passed through the hands of the fraudsters, generating in excess of £56,000, but the finance was never repaid. Addresses given to obtain credit were out of date, and the finance firms were left out of pocket.
David Traynor, prosecuting, said: “They (Bowman and the salesman) were in it together. These two men were the ones controlling the conspiracy, the shares and the profit. There is no evidence to say who received what, but Bowman seems to be right at the heart of it.”
Bowman was arrested along with the salesman and three other men – who have since served jail sentences for their roles in the operation.
During police interviews he tried to “explain away” his activities. But when his fellow conspirators started to confess, Bowman also owned up to his involvement.
The conman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, but on June 6, 1998 – as three of his accomplices appeared in the dock at Preston Crown Court – Bowman was nowhere to be seen.
Det Cons Simon Scott, who was involved in the investigation with Bamber Bridge CID in the 1990s, said: “A great deal of effort was put into the case to unravel it.
“It took a great deal of digging with the finance companies, and dozens and dozens of interviews. A lot of effort went into the investigation, and it was very frustrating when he disappeared. It was circulated that he was a wanted man.
“We got a tip-off that he had gone abroad, but by the time we got it he had gone.”
But finally, this week, the fraudster appeared alone in the dock to face up to the deception which has remained unsolved for 14 years.
Kieran Rankin, defending, said Bowman has been working illegally in the US motor trade, buying and selling vehicles, since 1998. He was picked up at the airport and subjected to visa checks – where his past crimes came to light.
Bowman, who gives his address as Esplanade Avenue, Portcal, Wales, was also ordered serve two months’ custody for an offence under the Bail Act, with 42 days spent on remand to count towards his sentence.