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AN airport parking scammer who made £1.4 million leaving travellers cars in muddy fields has been jailed for 14 months.
Asad Malik, 38, swindled holidaymakers and business travellers using Gatwick with faked customer reviews and photographs of a car park hundreds of miles away.
Instead of parking their vehicles in secure car parks, they were packed into fields, street corners and even outside a mosque.
A jury at Brighton Crown Court found him guilty of three counts of defrauding or misleading customers, in breach of consumer protection laws.
Malik, from Crawley, used fake reviews in mangled English on two websites in a bid to fool people into using London Parking Gatwick and another service called Easy Meet and Greet Gatwick.
He used a photograph of a hospital 400 miles away to trick travellers into believing their cars were safe when in reality they were dumped in muddy fields with the keys stuck to the windscreen.
One owner found their car had been driven 185 miles while they were away.
Other drivers found they had unpaid parking tickets after returning home.
Trading Standards found hundreds of cars at several locations parked in muddy fields and even in bushes.
Some cars were left unlocked with windows open and some keys were left in open boxes.
Cars came back damaged and others were not returned at all, the jury were told.
The websites claimed the cars would be parked in secure compounds with CCTV by professional chauffeurs.
When Trading Standards Officers went to the sites, they found no gates, fencing or CCTV.
Prosecutor Richard Heller said: “In June 2016, Sylvia Goodman said her car was returned with a bent key, the language on the dashboard display was changed to one she didn’t recognise, there was hardly any fuel left, it was dirty, the time had been changed and there was litter in the car including a Co-Op receipt for mini garlic naans.”
The receipt showed the bread was purchased four hours after she handed the car over.
Ross Newman said his BMW GT had a tow bar style dent in the front bumper after booking meet and greet parking with London Parking Gatwick, said Mr Heller.
His car had travelled 24 miles after being told the parking location was only 3.8 miles from Gatwick Airport.
In his defence Mr Malik was asked why he claimed sites used by the airport long stay parking services belonged to his firms.
“Owned means we were the only ones using it. Like going on holiday in a hotel,” he told the court.
“Just because you are staying there doesn’t mean you are owning the hotel.”
The Pakistani businessman had worked for BT and as a taxi driver in Crawley after completing a masters in Satellite Communications and Space Studies at the University of Sussex in Brighton.
Originally from Karachi, Mr Malik said English was not his first language and he outsource the design of his site to a form in Pakistan.
Passing sentence Judge Paul Tain said Malik’s actions would have an impact on other car park companies providing a legitimate service.
The judge said the company handled the complaint “was almost as if it was a joke”.
“One example was a customer complaining about cigarette ash in the car, and were told it must have blown in through the window of another car,” said the judge.