Five buyers handed over money for the same car

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A Nissan March car listed for sale on eMoo caused a headache for five motorists after serial con artist Wendy Francis ran off with their deposits in summer 2012.

During Francis’s sentencing for a total of 36 offences yesterday (see main story), prosecutor Tawana Tannock explained how Francis posed as a woman called Nicole Simons to sell the car on the popular website.

The first victim of her rip-off was Crystal Darrell, who agreed to buy the vehicle and paid Francis $4,000. After she bought it, Francis told her she needed the key back to retrieve personal belongings from the vehicle. She then drove off with it, and never returned. When Ms Darrell’s daughter saw Francis driving it a few days later, the victim contacted the police.

Liberta Furtado paid a $1,000 deposit for the Nissan on August 13. Francis cashed the cheque but never handed over the car. Jeremy Leese gave Francis a $500 deposit for the same vehicle two days after that and never heard from her again.

Elsworth Davis agreed to buy the car and paid Francis a $2,500 deposit. She said she would take the car for repairs before delivering it to him but she disappeared, and the sale was never completed.

Mao Chonglin had only arrived on the Island a few weeks before Francis conned him in August 2012. He agreed to purchase the car via a third party — a mechanic who was working on the vehicle. Through the mechanic, he paid Francis $4,300.

When Mr Chonglin went to TCD he was informed that the police had put a block on the registration number, and that he should contact them. He never took delivery of the car, which was impounded by police.

Speaking after yesterday’s court hearing, Ms Furtado said her daughter, Melissa, 28, needed a car because she had broken her arm in a bike accident and did not want to ride any more.

Francis met the Furtado family to let them see the car while Melissa’s arm was still in plaster and Liberta was about to head overseas for medical treatment. She disappeared with the $1,000 deposit, saying she would get minor repairs done to the car before delivering it and disappeared.

“She seemed like a nice person. She saw my daughter had a brace on her arm, and she seemed genuine,” explained the victim.

However, she became suspicious when she handed over a $1,000 cheque to Francis as a deposit.

“She kind of grabbed the cheque and didn’t even look at it. She almost yanked it out of my hand and my instinct told me that wasn’t right,” explained Ms Furtado.

Calls and text messages failed to get Francis to deliver the car or return the money. Ms Furtado eventually reported the matter to police.

“I think she’s just a liar,” she said of Francis. “She is a manipulative liar. She knew what she was doing she thought it right out.”

Asked what sentence would be appropriate, she replied: “I know she’s got children. I would just like her to give me my money back. It’s up to the law how they want to handle it. I was just trying to help my daughter in her situation. She has taken advantage of honest, hardworking people.”

Giving general advice to those shopping for cars on eMoo, Inspector Grant Tompkins of the financial crime unit warned against handing over any money until the seller has presented the keys and the bill of sale.

“Never pay a deposit or wire money,” he said. “Never hand over money before the sale until you know the seller personally — it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’. You’re putting yourself at risk. People do ask for deposits, but in this day and age you’ve got to be careful.”

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Published Nov 15, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm)

Five buyers handed over money for the same car

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