Used car salesman jailed after stealing more than £30,000 from family-run employer

  • Crooked used car salesman jailed for three-year campaign of fraud
  • Ceri Lewis abused his position at Penybanc Car Sales to siphon off £32,798.79
  • He’d been given a second chance after stealing from an employer before
  • Judge labels him ‘a thoroughly dishonest man’

Time 9:50 am, June 24, 2024

A ‘thoroughly dishonest’ used car dealer has been jailed after he siphoned off tens of thousands of pounds of company funds in order to fund his ‘lavish lifestyle’.

Ceri Lewis pocketed almost £33,000 in ill-gotten gains during a three-year stint at Penybanc Car Sales in Ammanford – which had taken him on despite a previous conviction for theft from an employer.

The 49-year-old used his growing influence at the company to fiddle bank payments and bag funds that were meant for creditors.

He even swiped money that was meant for a director’s monthly salary before deleting the evidence as part of a long-running campaign of fraud.

When he was finally confronted by bosses, he admitted his actions and agreed a repayment plan of £1,000 a month.

However, the salesman later defaulted on his payments and the police were called in to deal with the issue.

Lewis, of Quarry Road, Treboeth, Swansea, previously appeared at Swansea Crown Court, where he pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

He then returned for sentencing, where the full extent of his deception was laid bare.

The court was told that Lewis joined Penybanc Car Sales in January 2014, having left his previous role after being convicted of theft by an employee.

The court was told the previous conviction covered five offences from 2012, which included two charges of theft by an employee, as well as two of fraud by false representation.

Penybanc Car Sales boss Richard Safardi was aware of the conviction but wanted to give Lewis a chance, having done business with him in the past.

But within months of being given the opportunity, Lewis was caught stealing £400. However, he was allowed to stay on after ‘crying and begging for another chance’, WalesOnline reports.

He then rose through the ranks as the business grew, gaining access to the company’s bank account in the process.

It was during this time, prosecutor Ryan Bowen told the court, that Safardi began receiving complaints from creditors who hadn’t been paid.

The boss put the issues down to error and paid the money owed but they continued to rear their head.

In June 2022, the firm found itself subject to a VAT review, which revealed that director Catrin Safardi hadn’t been receiving her monthly salary of £1,000.

An investigation found that Lewis had been covertly redirecting the money into his own account and deleting the evidence.

When confronted, the defendant told his bosses that he had ‘been in a bad place’ and admitted stealing £32,798.79 over a three-year period, which Bowen said was used to ‘support a lavish lifestyle’.

It was at this point that the parties agreed the £1,000 monthly repayment plan, with Lewis’s parents acting as guarantors.

Lewis then repaid £21,000 before defaulting, at which stage Richard Safardi confronted Lewis’s mother and father. It then transpired the couple had no idea about their son’s arrangement and the police were finally called in.

Appearing at court last week, the defendant’s lawyers accepted a ‘breach of trust’ but denied the fraudster had caused a ‘significant financial effect’ on the business.

Sentencing Lewis to 20 months in custody. Judge Paul Thomas KC described his campaign of fraud as ‘systematic and cynical’.

He added: ‘You are, in short Mr Lewis, a thoroughly dishonest man.’

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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