A horsebox dealer from Gloucestershire has been given community work and a curfew for conning a customer out of a £2,000 deposit. At the time of the fraud, the dealer was on court bail over 24 other horsebox-related offences.

In August 2006, Michael Gowers of Orchard Leigh, Chesham, Buckinghamshire, took £2,000 from Stephanie Lee in part payment for a horsebox that was never delivered to her.

At the time of the deception, Gowers was already on court bail awaiting sentencing for misappropriating £200,000 from 18 different victims over six years (news, 16 November 2006).

He had pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and money laundering in August 2006, and on 8 November was sentenced to three months in prison.

“If Gowers had taken Stephanie Lee’s deposit before pleading guilty, her case might not have even come to court,” said DC Mark Vickers from Cheltenham police. “But courts don’t look kindly on someone who is on bail for another offence ripping people off.”

After pleading guilty to fraud relating to Miss Lee’s deposit in November, Gowers was sentenced on 4 December by Gloucester Crown Court to a 12-month community order, a six-month curfew from 9pm-6am monitored by electronic tagging, and 200hr unpaid community work.

“The whole thing makes me really angry,” said Miss Lee, from Tewkesbury. “He has got away with so much money — not only mine — and only served three months in prison. I expected the court to impose a compensation order on him, but it didn’t, and I’m not going to throw good money after bad pursuing my £2,000.

“I’m at the end of a long line of people he owes money to.”

  • A confiscation hearing, at which Gowers may be ordered to pay compensation to the original 18 victims, has been set for 26 February 2008 at Cirencester Magistrates Court. The case is expected to last two to three days.

    This news story was published in full in Horse & Hound (28 December, ’07)