A businessman defrauded motorists of more than £82,000 by stripping their classic cars for restoration work before vanishing.
Christopher Handford, 38, took money from 21 victims over several years.
Handford, who ran North West Mini Motors in Glossop, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business and fraudulent trading.
At Manchester’s Minshull Street Court, he was handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.
Judge Maurice Green said: “It’s not just a monetary loss to these people – there was great sentimental value.
“These are cherished items; there were a large number of victims over a sustained period of time.
“You’ve lost a great deal by committing these offences – monetarily and by the loss of your good name.”
But he told Handford, of no fixed address, he didn’t present a risk to the public and had been an “honest businessman” before he started to act fraudulently.
The court heard he was a victim of his own success and the business spiralled out of control.
By 2014, it became fraudulent and he was taking money – £82,978 in total – from people knowing he couldn’t carry out the work.
It is understood there were many more victims and a lot more money involved.
Will Taylor, who sent a car to Handford, said: “He’s kind of got off scott-free and we’re all out of pocket and I have a car that’s rusting away that I have no money to sort out.”
Another victim, Beverley Hulme, said her family had lost more than £7,000 on a car.
She said: “These cars weren’t just normal cars.
“They were our babies – ours had been in our family for a long time.
“One of the victims, it was his late father’s car that he was going to get restored for his wedding.
“Those kind of things can’t ever be re-done.”
Handford was also was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work.
Did the fraudster get off lightly? Should companies like this be insured to cover for any criminal activity? Let us know in the comments