An airport parking scammer has been sent to prison in one of the first cases of its kind after he made £1.4 million leaving holidaymakers’ cars in muddy fields with keys in the window.
Asad Malik, 38, used fake reviews and photographs of secure car parks hundreds of miles away to trick customers into leaving their vehicles with him when they flew from Gatwick.
The company then dumped them in muddy fields, on street corners and outside a mosque.
One owner found their car had been driven 185 miles while they were on holiday, others came home to find damage or unpaid parking tickets, whilst Keegan Bowes saw his Mini on a TV news bulletin while he was in Spain.
Run like a joke
Jailing Malik for 14 months, Judge Paul Tain said that the way the company was run was “almost as if it was a joke”.
Despite concerns about the industry, it is believed to be one of the first times that an airport parking boss has been jailed for scamming customers.
Malik, from Crawley, used a photograph of a hospital car park 400 miles away in Scotland to trick travellers into believing their cars were safe when they left them with London Parking Gatwick and another service called Easy Meet and Greet Gatwick.
The websites claimed the cars would be parked in secure compounds with CCTV by professional chauffeurs.
But the company was busted when Trading Standards found hundreds of cars at several locations parked in muddy fields and even in bushes.
Some cars were left unlocked with windows open and keys were left in plastic wallets stuck to the windscreen.
Some cars came back damaged and others were not returned at all, the court heard.
A jury at Brighton Crown Court found him guilty of three counts of defrauding or misleading customers, in breach of consumer protection laws.
Judge Tain said: “It was almost as if it was a joke.
“One example was a customer complaining about cigarette ash in the car, and were told it must have blown in through the window of another car.
“Another reported their clutch was burnt out.
“That exemplifies the approach being taken, customers that had difficulties were fobbed off in the hope they would go away.”
The businessman had worked for BT and as a taxi driver in Crawley after completing a masters in Satellite Communications and Space Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton.
He set up his first Gatwick valet parking firm in October 2014 and, in 20 months of trading, he tricked thousands of customers and more the £1.4 million passed through the accounts.
Malik was also disqualified from acting as a company director of any business for the next four years.
What more can be done to combat fake reviews? Should the boss have faced a stiffer penalty? Let us know in the comments.