A family who ran a “meet-and-greet” parking service operating near one of the country’s biggest airports have been hauled before the court after hundreds of holidaymakers had their cars lost or damaged.
Mohammed Isaq, 62, and two children Sultan Khan, 28 and Amani Khan, 27, ran the business, reports the Manchester Evening News. It “misled” members of the public, promising “safe and secure” parking while they flew from Manchester Airport.
Manchester Crown Court heard many discovered their vehicle had been lost, stolen or found damaged in a muddy field upon their return. In one case, a man returned from his holiday to find his car had done an extra 688 miles on the clock.
Another car was found to contain cannabis and Rizla papers. Other motorists found their cars had damage to the alloys, windscreen, or bodywork.
Appearing at Manchester Crown Court, Isaq was jailed for 17 months, whereas his son and daughter were handed a community order. Outlining the facts of the case, Adam Pearson, explained the firm operated out of their family home at Davenport Green Hall in Hale Barns, however it also used local fields and residential streets.
The companies advertised on their own website and on price comparison sites, that cars would be left in a secure car park, covered with CCTV, flood lights and 24 hour staffing.
“Those advertisements did not accord with the reality of the situation,” Mr Pearson said.
“The reality was that cars were parked in a muddy field, or on residential streets. They were not covered by CCTV or security cameras, there was no floodlighting nor 24-hour staff coverage.
“Car keys and the cars themselves were kept insecure, resulting in thefts of keys and cars. Other cars suffered significant damage, or were used by employees of the company for their own or the company’s purposes without the permission of the owners.”
The firm originally operated under the name “Eat, Meet and Greet Ltd” in which Sultan Khan was the sole director. However that was dissolved in 2017.
It continued to operate in the same way by a second company, called “Manchester Meet and Greet Limited”, with Sultan Khan as sole director, but his father was “closely involved” in running the company. The prosecutor said Sultan was not the “name above the shop”, but dealt with representatives from the British Parking Association, and had provided comments to stories run by the Manchester Evening News in relation to poor service.
A third company was also set up. “Manchester Airport Parking Services” had Amani Khan as the sole director.
Each company operated the same way, and advertised that customers cars would be parked in a secure location, but on the occasions customers sought to find out what had happened to their cars, they were met with the “reality of the situation”.
Prosecutors said over 30 customers had been affected by the family. A number of people found their cars parked in a mud-locked field, with no CCTV, security staff or flood lights.
While others found their keys were missing, or staff were unable to find their cars. A “break-in” at the firm’s office – which was the back of a broken down van – in August 2017 resulted in 130 sets of keys being stolen, along with a number of vehicles.
It left a scene of “utter confusion”, Mr Pearson said. One customer used an app on her mobile phone while abroad to track her car as it was being driven around Manchester while the firm insisted it was in a compound.
Another motorist received two car parking fines while his car was supposed to be parked up with the firm. While another driver, who owned a Jaguar, used an app to remotely watch her car being driven around and a BMW owner took a photo of his mileage before his trip – and discovered on his return his car had an additional 688 miles on the clock along with cigarette papers and cannabis inside, the court heard.
One car which should have been safely parked up, suffered “substantial damage” after being involved in a collision with a bus, captured on a camera within the bus. Mr Pearson added: “Customers were paying for a service they did not receive and would never have agreed to if they knew the truth.”
The combined turnover was up to £200,000. But the court heard the fraudulent trading amounted to between £30,000 and £100,000.
Isaq was said to have previous convictions for breaching fire regulations, as well as for VAT fraud. Neither Sultan nor Amani Khan had convictions on their record.
Mitigating for Isaq, his barrister Abdul Iqbal KC said many customers were satisfied with the service from the small, family-run business and Isaq had not set out to defraud motorists. However, following the burglary, the company had to “scramble” in order to find alternative car parks, and admitted the service was not what was advertised.
For both Sultan, represented by Richard Simons, and Amani Khan, represented by Mr Duffy, it was said they were both “young” when they were made sole directors of the business, that they were unaware of the responsibilities involved.
Sentencing, Judge John Potter said: “These proceedings reflect a period of time in which the three of you took part in the exploitation of customers by the adoption of unscrupulous business practices.
“On the evidence in this case, I find you, Mohammed Isaq, to be the main instigator behind this and the leading light in the business activities.”
He added that the business showed a “disgraceful failing to take any responsibility to the customers seriously” and says they showed “incompetence”, a “lack of planning” and “wilful neglect”.
Of Isaq, Judge Potter added: “You have lived for a significant period of your life with very little regard for regulatory matters.”
Isaq was jailed for 17 months and banned from becoming a company director for six years after pleading guilty to fraudulent trading between August 2017 and February 2018. Sultan Khan was handed an 18 month community order, and ordered to complete 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirements and 200 hours of unpaid work.
Amina Khan was also handed an 18 month community order, ordered to complete 10 days of rehabilitation activity requirements and 200 hours of unpaid work. Both pleaded guilty to breaking consumer protection laws by negligence.
Nina Khan, wife of Mohammad Isaq and mother to Sultan and Amani Khan, was discharged after the judge formally recorded not guilty verdicts.
A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “This is an appalling case in which customers were lied to and taken advantage of. They left their cars with this company on the understanding they would be kept in a safe location while they were away and this was simply not the case – their vehicles were misused and damaged.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this case and would like to say a huge thank you to our trading standards and planning teams for all their hard work in the investigation. We will not stand by and allow fraudulent companies to operate in our borough – we will investigate and have them prosecuted.”
A Proceeds of Crime Hearing is yet to take place to recover prosecution costs and compensation for motorists affected.