TWO men, including one from Otterbourne, were given suspended sentences for ‘clocking’ second-hand cars.

Paul Sheppard and John Robins generated more than £6,000 in the scam, which involved nine cars including an ex-police vehicle.

Both pleaded guilty after trading standards officers unmasked them, and they were sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Monday (November 29).

Sheppard, a married father-of-two of previous good character, admitted nine charges relating to six cars.

The 57-year-old from Waterworks Road, Otterbourne, made around £4,700 from the swindle, trading as Chesil Autos.

His 45-year-old accomplice of Miller Road, Christchurch, admitted six charges linked to three vehicles, making at least £1,600.

The court heard that they bought high mileage cars at auctions. Their odometers were then turned back or ‘clocked’, sometimes more than halving the distance covered.

To add credibility, they put the vehicles through MOT tests to obtain official documents with the new mileage.

Each car was then re-sold at auction, usually for a few hundred pounds more, the court heard.

The offences took place around three years ago, and after being caught, both men said they were acting for a third man who financed the operation.

He was named as Paul Choat, who died in a road accident in 2008, the court heard.

In mitigation, Sheppard was said to have poor health, while both suffered with mental health and financial problems.

The court also heard that none of the buyers of the nine vehicles lodged an official complaint or compensation claim.

Judge Guy Boney said there was no way of telling if Sheppard and Robins led the operation or were just “unsophisticated stooges”.

He handed Sheppard a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years and a curfew order.

Robins, also known as John Dennis and John Richards, received a six-month jail term suspended for two years along with a community and curfew order.

“Both of you have come very close indeed to facing an immediate custodial sentence,” the judge said.