A car dealer has been jailed for five years and eight months after being convicted of ripping off thousands of pounds from customers.
Nicholas Morley, who ran dealership NM Jags, said he had no idea why money owed to customers from the sale of their cars went missing, reports the Bristol Post.
Morley and car salesman Michael Horton were alleged to have conned at least 35 customers out of thousands of pounds by selling cars on a "sale or return" basis - but not passing on the money.
Customers in the case received a letter signed by an FJ Taylor, saying Morley had suffered a stroke and that Taylor was trying to sort out his debts. The prosecution alleged this was yet another delaying tactic.
A jury was told Morley traded under variations on the name NM Jags in Temple Cloud, Gurney Slade, Weston-super-Mare, Hartcliffe and latterly Bristol Road, Whitchurch.
His company also had a website called UsedJags.com.
He was made bankrupt in 1991 and 2007, and ended up with £2.1 million of debts.
The 57-year-old, of Midway House in Paulton Hill, Radstock, denied fraudulent trading from September 2006 to July last year and being engaged in business while bankrupt.
Horton (27), of Heggard Close, Bishopsworth, denied fraudulent trading.
A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for seven hours, 43 minutes, and unanimously found both men guilty of fraudulent trading.
The jury found Morley guilty of being engaged in business while bankrupt by a majority of 11 to one.
Judge Martin Picton told Morley: "I have no hesitation in labelling you as thoroughly dishonest.
"These were not victimless crimes against institutions. Many could ill afford to lose the money. You knew that and you did not care."
Morley was banned from being a company director for 10 years.
Horton is due to be sentenced on May 22.
Morley told the court: "It was my life. I'm devastated, absolutely gutted. I lived for that garage. My family lived for the garage. I'm just gutted about it.
"I had no intention to defraud anybody. Michael Horton absolutely had no intention to defraud anybody.
"There was no way we took somebody's car and had no intention of paying them.
"It was the largest Jaguar specialist in the south west of England."
Morley told the court he suffered a serious assault in 2013 – in which he "died" in hospital – but a letter sent out to customers claiming he suffered two strokes was incorrect.
Due to the concerns of the receivers who examined Morley's accounts and business, in 2011 he had to sign a six-year bankruptcy restriction order promising that he would not, among other things, carry on trading in a different name from the one under which he was made bankrupt, without informing people he did business with. The prosecution alleged he breached that.
Nicholas Wrack, defending Morley, said: "The business itself was set up and was run as a legitimate business. It had a lot of good press and good will. The business was run as a legitimate business, within which fraud took place."
Mr Wrack said his client, a grandfather-of-four, had always intended to pay people back and still intended to do so.
He said: "He apologises to all of those who have suffered as a result of his behaviour."