An eBay conman who cheated businesses out of more than £90,000, after selling them plant and equipment they never got, was spared jail.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Matthew Berry (36), who claimed he was from plant firms, promised to deliver machinery – even agreeing he would take a £48,000 crusher to Tilbury Docks for a Spanish buyer – but didn’t. Berry didn’t return cash buyers had paid into his bank either, made excuse after excuse to his victims and showed “displeasure” when one called the police twice over the planned scam.
The hearing was told Berry, who has a record for handling stolen goods and making a false representation, has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, suffers from memory loss and is having treatment which would stop if he was jailed.
The defendant has now put the money to compensate his victims into his solicitor’s clients’ account and has been given 28 days to pay up – time to allow the funds to clear.
The defendant, of Clitheroe Road, Knowle Green, admitted four charges of fraud, between March 2012 and May 2013. He was given 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, with supervision and 150 hours unpaid work. Berry was ordered to pay £90,600 compensation and if he doesn’t could end up back in court.
Judge Ian Leeming, QC, told him he was passing a suspended sentence “on the footing these funds and only on the footing these funds do clear”.
He told the defendant the offences were serious and said Berry was remorseful.
The judge continued: “You have a job. You have considerable psychological problems. You do suffer from a disorder which causes you significant problems with gaps in memory on a day-to-day basis. That treatment could not continue in custody.”
Prosecutor Amanda Johnson told the court Keith Ramsay of Ramsay Plant Sales Ltd agreed with Berry, who said he was from Kestrel Plant, a price of £32,400 for a concrete crusher.
It wasn’t delivered, he chased the matter and contacted the police. An officer spoke to Berry over the phone and he claimed he had paid the full amount back into Mr Ramsay’s bank account that very day.
Miss Johnson said: “That transpired to be untrue.”
Next victim David O’ Mahony saw a Leyland Daf tipper wagon being advertised by the defendant on the auction site, under the name of Matt from Ideal Plant. They met up in Blackburn, Mr O’Mahony saw the vehicle and a price was agreed of £5,400. Again, the tipper wasn’t delivered and the defendant gave “one excuse after another”. The victim demanded his money back and Berry agreed, but never returned it. Mr O’ Mahony then saw the vehicle re-advertised for a similar price and contacted the police. Contact was made with Berry by officers in the form of mediation at first and he claimed he had cash flow problems.
Miss Johnson said a third victim, a businessman living in Spain, agreed to buy plant from Berry for £48,000. Berry agreed to deliver it to Tilbury Port, it never arrived and the buyer made repeated attempts to contact the defendant without success. He emailed Berry and was then met with various excuses. The prosecutor said: “It wasn’t ever delivered. He assured him he would refund the money, but didn’t do so.”
Final victim Alan Williamson paid £4,800, for two recycling bins. He sent a wagon to collect them, but the yard was locked. Miss Johnson said: “He was never allowed access to the bins and they were never delivered.”
The total amount of cash handed over to Berry was £90,600.
Miss Victoria Sheppard-Jones, for Berry, said he was receiving therapy on a weekly basis.
She added: “If he was given an immediate custodial sentence that treatment would stop.”