Former Drivers Choice car dealer Scott Hartwell.
Former Drivers Choice car dealer Scott Hartwell. Contributed

'Dishonesty, fraud, theft': CQ car salesman caught out

A FORMER Rockhampton second hand car dealer has coped $18,500 in restitution orders and a 12-month suspended jail term in relation to criminal offences involving five victims across Queensland from 2014.

Scott Andrew Hartwell, 48, pleaded guilty to five charges in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court yesterday.

"It's not just a bad business deal," Police prosecutor Julie Marsden told the court.

She said it included significant dishonesty, fraud and theft over a prolonged period.

The charges arose from dealings at the caryard Hartwell owned and operated on Queen Elizabeth Drive, Drivers Choice, up until it went into insolvency in April 2014.

The charges included two counts of stealing, one of fraud and two of failure by a dealer to apply for transfer of registration with dates ranging from January 25 to April 17, 2014.

One of the victims had traded in a 2006 Nissan Navara that he still owed $17,110.40 on a loan.

The deal the 23-year-old victim made with Hartwell included new finance for the new car - a 2008 Holden Commodore. Hartwell was to use the money from the finance company to pay out the victim's old loan for the Navara.

However, the court heard the cheque Hartwell wrote for the old loan bounced.

Ms Marsden said the victim realised there was an issue when he noticed he was still having repayments debited from his account for the old loan while he was also making repayments for the new loan.

Before sentencing, Magistrate Cameron Press questioned defence lawyer Ron Frigo if his client had ever made any further attempts to pay any of the $17,000.

Mr Frigo said no.

Another victim had left a 2002 Holden Monaro with Hartwell to sell with the deal involving the victim receiving $22,000 as her share of the sale.

Ms Marsden said she received a cheque for part of the $22,000 which bounced and no further attempts to pay her were made, so she instead took a vehicle worth $16,000 in an effort to recuperate some of her money.

The court heard the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered Hartwell to pay the outstanding money owed to the woman earlier this year.

The third victim was offered an extended warranty for an extra $300. He paid $100 of it the day he took the vehicle.

The next day, he tried to start his recently purchased vehicle and the battery was flat. Hartwell told the man he would waive the $200 owed for the warranty if the man paid for his own new battery.

However, the extended warranty was never processed and Hartley didn't pay the man back the $300.

With the fourth and fifth victims, Hartwell simply didn't pay the fee to have the registration for the vehicles transferred. One victim found his vehicle was unroadworthy when he went to get it registered.

The court heard Hartwell had been originally charged in relation to these matters in October 2014 but the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to indict him in February 2016. Police recharged him four months later and a trial set down in May 2017, for which witnesses flew in from Brisbane and Townsville, was adjourned.

Hartwell was sentenced in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court in January 2015 for charges laid by the Office of Fair Trading.

Ms Marsden said OFT had given Hartwell dealings directions in 2013.

Mr Frigo submitted a psychologist's report to the court in which it was stated Hartwell was suffering a non-specified anxiety disorder as a result of business and personal stresses at the time of the offending.

Mr Press ordered Hartwell to a head sentence of a 12-month jail term, suspended immediately and operational for three years. Convictions were recorded.

Hartwell was also ordered to pay a total of $18,500 restitution - the $17,110.40 within six months - and $3000 in fines.

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