A SWINDON garage owner has pleaded guilty to fraud following an investigation by the South West Trading Standards Scambusters Team.

Harjinder Singh Sandhu, of Hampton, near Highworth, appeared at Swindon Magistrates Court on Monday and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £18,000 costs and a further £35,000 by way of a forfeiture order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

It followed an investigation by the South West Trading Standards Scambusters Team – a team investigating cross-border consumer offending regionally on behalf of local authorities in the South West or nationally as directed by the National Trading Standards Board.

The NTSB brings together trading standards experts from services across England and Wales to prioritise, fund and coordinate national and regional enforcement cases.

It is responsible for gathering intelligence from around the country to combat rogue traders and tackle priorities such as internet scams, illegal money lending and other issues that go beyond local authority boundaries.

Sandhu pleaded guilty to fraud in that between December, 12, 2006 and August, 1, 2010 he sold four vehicles on which the recorded mileage had been reduced by a total of 350,000 miles.

A BMW had its recorded mileage reduced by 120,000 miles. One of these cars was sold to a dealer and the other three were sold at auction.

At the time of sale he did not warrant that the mileage on any of the cars was correct.

However by his guilty plea Sandhu acknowledged he ought to have expressly disclosed that the mileage on the four vehicles had been altered and to have declared the original mileage.

Sandhu runs a number of businesses in the Swindon area, including Marshgate Garage in Stratton Road, Swindon, and a small fleet of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, which he rents out to taxi drivers.

The four vehicles concerned were all run as taxis for a period before being sold.

Sandhu acceptedother vehicles owned by him and hired out to be used as taxis also had their mileage altered.

He did not accept that this alteration caused harm to anyone nor that it misled the drivers paying for the hire of the taxi.

Stephen Meale, of Bristol City Council, which hosts the South West Scambusters Team, said: “It is quite clear the fraud to which Mr Sandhu has pleaded guilty has been intended to deceive both the taxi drivers to whom he hired out the vehicles and those to whom the cars were subsequently sold.”

Coun Vera Tomlinson, Swindon Council Cabinet member for a Safer And Stronger Borough, said: “Consumers must be confident they know exactly what they are buying.”