Fen mayor falls prey to the “biggest masterminded car scam in the UK”

Eastern Daily Press Fenland Edition launch. Left: Mayor of Wisbech Samantha Hoy and Mayor of March A

Eastern Daily Press Fenland Edition launch. Left: Mayor of Wisbech Samantha Hoy and Mayor of March Andrew Pugh toast the launch. - Credit: Archant

A Fenland mayor is warning people to beware of fraudsters after he fell prey to what has been described as “the biggest masterminded car scam currently operating in the UK.”

March mayor Andrew Pugh has been left out of pocket by hundreds of pounds and is still without his car after he trusted a Heathrow-based firm to collect his vehicle for engine reconditioning work that never happened.

Mr Pugh broke down in his 2004 Vauxhall Vectra on the A14 and after getting towed back to the Fens by the AA was told by a local garage that the cam shaft problem would be cheaper to fix by getting a reconditioned engine.

After a web search, Mr Pugh contacted what he thought was a reputable car parts company near Heathrow and the next day they picked up his vehicle with the promise of doing the work within 5-10 days.

The firm, Unique Engines, of Harmondsworth, took a deposit of £1,490 and after giving an initial quote of £1800, then raised the stakes to £2,900.

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After more than two weeks they never did the work and have since been shut down by bailiffs for non payment of rent on their industrial estate unit.

The company, which he has since discovered has appeared on Sky News and BBC Cowboy Traders, had at least 160 vehicles trapped inside their premises, including his, many stripped of their engines and interiors.

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Mr Pugh said: “It looked like a very professionally presented website, I paid my deposit by bank transfer and trusted them to do the work.

“It is mind blowing to think how they have scammed hundreds of people and I am one of them, it is awful.

“I have had to hire a car and am now looking at buying a new one.”

The firm has been the subject of a long-running battle with the Insolvency Agency who have tried to stop the directors from spreading their misery.

In June the High Court wound up Engine Search and companies connected to discredited car repair company, Bray Engineering Ltd.

However, Unique Engines, run by the same directors, continued.

It has previously traded under the names Heathrow Engines, Brent South Trading, Engine Search and Embassy Executive Cars.

A spokesman said it was: “Probably the biggest masterminded garage/car parts scam currently in the UK. Hundreds if not thousands of people have been scammed by these daylight thieves.

“Like most good scammers, they have a large network of contacts, funds, strategies to cover them as individuals and their personal belongings.”

Its immediate predecessor, Bray Engineering, was wound up in the public interest in November 2011, along with another connected company, MPH Engineering.

Commenting on the case, David Hill, a Case Supervisor with the Insolvency Service, said: “The volume of the complaints against these companies, compounded by threats of violence directed at customers, showed that the companies had traded unethically and with complete disregard for commercial probity in their treatment of customers.”

The Insolvency Agency outlined how the firm operates

Victims are lured with a good quote for re-manufacturing/replacing/reconditioning engines or engine parts through a vast web exposure on numerous websites.

They then offer a five year guarantee and a fast turn around.

They collect cars from anywhere in the UK, they say it is free, but the cost is added at the end.

They dismantle the engine and send an engine report and a much higher new quote.

The report says other parts need changing otherwise they will not give the guarantee eg anti freeze at £18.00 plus VAT.

A customer’s first reaction will be to challenge the report and the higher quote.

If customers don’t agree and wish to remove their car they are told to pay labour costs for taking the engine apart plus storage to date.

They will not give the car back until payment is received.

Costs can be from £500 – £2500 plus pick up truck and delivery.

Once the car is returned, the engine parts will be in the boot of the car. Victims have been known to be missing spare wheels, personal belongings, gear boxes and vital components of the engine.

Customers feel like they have no other choice but to pay.

Once payment is received customers wait for weeks for the car to be repaired with the excuse that suppliers have delayed delivery of parts.

Repairs are often shoddy and need taking to another garage

Websites used to advertise their services include www.uniqueengines.co.uk, www.reconditioned-engines.co.uk, www.mercedesengines.co.uk, www.rangeroverengines.co.uk, www.saabengines.co.uk www.jaguarengines.co.uk.

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