A cocaine-addicted MOT tester has been handed a 14-month jail term, suspended for two years with 30 days’ rehabilitation activity and 180 hours’ unpaid work, with £1,997 costs.
Carl Fletcher claimed to have been pressured by his dealers to pay off a drug debt by issuing fraudulent MOT certificates without having seen the vehicles, Teeside Live has reported.
The Crown said he deceptively put up to 100 vehicles back on the road – though Fletcher said it was “75 to 80 cars”.
At Teesside Crown Court, prosecutor Eddison Flint said: “There could have been unsafe, potentially even dangerous, cars on the road.”
Judge Jonathan Carroll blasted Fletcher for his reckless dishonesty which risked the reputation of his employers, a respected family-run garage which had traded for 45 years.
The judge said: “You are there to keep you, your wife, your children, the prison officer you’re stood next to, my court staff, your dad and everybody else safe by vehicles that are safe going on to public roads.
“You completely and utterly abrogated that responsibility because you were a drug addict.
“And to feed your own cocaine habit you were prepared to do anything.
“You were prepared to lose your wife and your kids.
“You didn’t give a damn”
“You were prepared to lose your job with your dad.
“Imagine that, being sacked by your own dad because of your drug addiction.
“You then took this job and from the off you were working with your drug dealers to get them cars that never saw sight nor sound of the garage.
“You had no idea if they were death traps or not.
“You didn’t give a damn.”
Fletcher admitted 21 offences of fraud.
Fletcher passed the vehicles without seeing them while working at a Middlesbrough garage from September to November 2018, magistrates heard previously.
He lied to investigators at first, saying the tests were carried out at a different site but later confessed to issuing certificates to vehicles he had never examined.
He said he got a phone call from an unnamed creditor, to whom to owed £2,200 plus interest for drugs, giving details of a car and telling him to “put a test on it”.
He told how £50 was knocked off his debt each time he gave a fraudulent certificate.
Fletcher said he was threatened that the garage would be smashed up or burned down.
“A fundamentally dishonest act over an extended period”
The judge added: “What you did was driving a coach and horses through the potential reputation of that garage that’s just trying to earn an honest crust.
“A fundamentally dishonest act over an extended period of time, a substantial number of vehicles.
“The harm in cash terms in relatively modest, £2,000 to £2,500, but the reality of this case is not about about cash.
“It’s about the safety.”
He was dismissed from his job at the family firm, which took a strong line on his activities and took care to identify the vehicles involved, the court was told.
John Nixon, defending, said Fletcher found himself “between a rock and a hard place” through coercion, intimidation and exploitation.
He said the married dad’s life collapsed around him in 2018 as he became dependent on cocaine and mired in debt.
“There is no evidence in fact that any harm was caused,” argued Mr Nixon.
“Not every vehicle fails its MOT.”
Mr Nixon added prison would have a “catastrophic” impact on his family, with whom he was now reconciled.
He said Fletcher had worked hard all his life, now had a new job in another industry and was seeking help and treatment.
For these reasons, Judge Carroll gave him a 14-month jail term suspended for two years with 30 days’ rehabilitation activity and 180 hours’ unpaid work, with £1,997 costs.
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