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A HORSEBOX conman made at least £96,000 from unsuspecting customers by selling the same lorry many times over.

Troy Hedger, 45, of Meadow Close, Hertford, admitted one charge of fraudulent trading when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court on 14 May.

The court heard how Hedger, who ran TH Horseboxes in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, created a complex fraud where he sold the same horsebox to around seven customers, including London store Fortnum & Mason.

Prosecuting, Mark Wyeth said Hedger’s business had started out as an “honest enterprise”, but his lack of business acumen led to him taking orders and agreeing prices he could not honour.

In 2006, Hedger found himself in financial difficulties and began to fob his clients off, said Mr Wyeth. He eventually tried to kill himself by drinking industrial paint-stripper laced with paracetemol tablets.

Hedger was given a 12-month suspended sentence, with 250 hours unpaid community work and has been banned from acting as a company director for seven years.

An H&H reader, who does not want to be named, was fleeced of £32,000 by Hedger in 2006.

She said: “When we first visited Mr Hedger’s yard he showed us a box that was nearly finished. We loved the lorry and paid him our money.

“Soon after, he told us the box had been set on fire, but he had another we could see. We didn’t realise, but he was showing that box to several people.

“In the end, we turned up at the yard last August to find he had tried to kill himself. I had to call the ambulance.”

Daniel Squirrel of Oxfordshire said Hedger had told him a number of lies as to why his box had not been completed, including that his son had been in a motorcycle accident and that the owner of the spray shop had committed suicide.

“He was basically lying about everything,” he said.

Fortnum & Mason did not wish to comment on the case.

A confiscation and compensation hearing will be held on 26 June to decide whether Hedger, who has since declared himself bankrupt, can compensate his victims.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (28 May, ’09)