Two men have been convicted of fraudulently making thousands of pounds by applying for operator licences for large goods vehicles with forged and false documents.
As a result, the pair has potentially endangered thousands of road users by putting ill-maintained and dangerous vehicles on the roads.
John Plummeridge and Philip Cameron were sentenced on 3rd December 2008 following a 14-month investigation, code named Cluedo, carried out by the Metropolitan Police’s Traffic OCU, in conjunction with the Vehicle Operator Services Agency in the first case of its kind.
Detective superintendent Glyn Jones from the Traffic OCU said: “These men abused a system put in place to ensure everyone’s safety with such a degree of arrogance that they believed they would never be caught… The scam they were running meant badly maintained lorries were on the roads and that can result in serious injury or even death.”
The catalyst was a change in the legislation, which gave the VOSA authority to seize vehicles.
The investigation began in February 2006 after VOSA tried to track down the named licence holders of a number of poorly maintained vehicles that could either not be traced or were being registered and handle through a PO Box number in Watford.
At around the same time it was discovered that a number of licence applications were supported by similar looking bank statements. Concerns were also raised about the other documents supplied, in particular the validity of the technical expertise and maintenance contracts.
On 6th April 2006 police raided five addresses in London and the Home Counties and seized large amounts of paperwork and computer equipment, which tied the pair to numerous licences.
Plummeridge was found guilty of 15 counts of obtaining pecuniary advantage and has been sentenced to four years in prison, while Cameron was found guilty of three counts and has been given a 51 week suspended sentence. A financial investigation is now underway to ascertain how much the pair made, following which a confiscation hearing will be held later in the year.
It is thought they charged £1,500 to acquire false licences on behalf of people, but would also do letter writing, make appearances and loan out licences for a fee.
Other arrests include Thomas McKinney who was operating a company called Rino Haulage Limited. He operated vehicles under false licence, used false bank statements to acquire licences and admitted to renting licences from Plummeridge on an ad-hoc basis. He was fined £22,000 and has had a further £68,000 confiscated.
Martin John Lavelle was charged with attempting to gain an operators licence using false documentation and has been fined £500 and Mohan Singh Bambra who applied for and was granted a licence in a relative’s name using false documentation was fined £25,000.
Alex Fiddes, VOSA chief operating officer, said: “I am very pleased with the results of this joint investigation. It sends out a clear message that we will target and catch those who abuse the operator licencing system. We will continue to work in partnership with the police to make the roads safer and protect the public as well as ensure a level playing field for legitimate operators.”