Monday, January 3, 2011

Expat scam may have endangered lives

Police in Britain are investigating Algarve expats Seamus and Paula Mongomery for allegedly running a £1 million MOT scam that may have put the lives of road users here and elsewhere at risk.

It is alleged they advertised Ministry of Transport road-worthiness certificates for owners of UK registered vehicles and sold more than 1,000 a year, charging £200 a time. Police suspect the scam ran for least five years.

Following their arrest in Essex, the Montgomerys have been released on bail having surrendered their passports.

The retired couple, both in their sixties, were still regularly playing lawn bowls at Alvor until early last month. They have an apartment in Alvor. Acquaintances say they also own a house in the eastern Algarve, which they want to sell. Up until a couple of years ago, the Montgomerys were selling HP sauce, Heiz Baked Beans and other typically British delicacies through their company, Montys Online Grocery Service, MOGS for short.

They offered to take orders for products from Tesco, Sainsbury's and other British stores and deliver them to customers via 18 drop-off points right across the Algarve. A local newspaper reported that “nothing is too much trouble for the Montgomerys” and described their service as “tremendously popular, mainly with British expatriates, but with some Dutch residents as well. ”

After taking part in the 2005 BLIP exhibition the Montgomerys were so enthusiastic that they declared online: “Yes, MOGS will definitely be taking a stand in 2006, we were overwhelmed by the number of contacts we made,we would like a similar position next year.”

Acquaintances described them as “a couple you either liked or disliked.” They were highly regarded by many people at the bowling club in Alvor – at least until this weekend.

Just how the Montgomerys' focus changed from MOGS to MOTs is not clear. It was the MOT business that interested police in Essex. It involved 'genuine' MOT certificates and has exposed a serious weakness in the British MOT documentation system. The police allege the Montgomerys issued certificates to owners without their vehicles ever going though the mandatory tests.

The certificates may be 'genuine' in that they are thought to have been from a batch of stolen documents. For expats in the Algarve, it saved bringing their vehicles back to the UK for testing. Such owners may be as guilty as those who supplied and sold the certificates.

“My son reported this racket to the UK police two years ago,” an expat wrote on an Algarve website yesterday. “They didn't want to know. They said it was out of their jurisdiction.”

The scam was exposed at the weekend by the Daily Mail after the pair were arrested in their mobile home in Maldon, Essex. The service had been advertised with a contact email address and mobile phone number in newspapers in the Algarve where they spent nine months of the year.

The Mail applied for a certificate for a write-off Ford Fiesta. The car had been so extensively damaged that the insurer decided not to repair it. The tyres were bald, the seatbelt mountings rotting and windscreen wipers missing. The MOT certificate duly arrived from Essex in a brown envelope a week later. It was a genuine document, which suggested the test had been carried out by a garage in Bermondsey, south-east London.

“The 12-figure test number quoted on the form had been fabricated and the MOT did not show up on the Vehicle & Operators Services Agency database,” according to the Mail. “The document could, however, have been used to obtain a tax disc at a post office, if shown with a log book and insurance details.”

The Mail reported that officials of the Automobile Association (AA) said the alleged fraud “may have put potential death traps on the road and that is frightening.”

Anyone with one of these bogus certificates needs to be worried. Driving a car with a false MOT certificate is a criminal offence. The vehicle insurance won't be valid. No doubt the GNR will be on to all this. Drivers of UK register vehicles can expect to be pulled over in the weeks ahead.

3 comments:

  1. Well done for publicising this dreadful scam and good luck to the police in getting the vehicles of the dangerous, selfish cheats who took advantage of it off the roads.

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  2. anyone buying these dodgy MOTs will have known they are illegally supplied, if not before then after receiving them. Expect GNR retribution for taking the p**s in the coming weeks.

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  3. Dear Mr Port,
    Objectively and accurately written with no heart-on-sleeve hysteria, unlike the one in the Portugal News.

    If any of your readers are interested in the ins and outs of dodgy car dealing and the hookey, bottom-feeding creatures of the night that accompany it
    they can download a free copy of my

    How To Avoid Being Stuffed With The Car You Don't Want!

    at http://car-id.org/

    Kind regards

    Louis lesCrooge

    ReplyDelete