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'I knew nothing of my uncle's massive car scam'

PUBLISHED: 16:00 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 August 2010

A 21-YEAR-OLD caught up in the country s biggest ever car fraud scam had his life turned upside down with the threat of prison. Jamie Langdon, of Sherbourne Road, Orpington, walked free from Southwark Crown Court for his role in the £38 million fraud w

A 21-YEAR-OLD caught up in the country's biggest ever car fraud scam had his life "turned upside down" with the threat of prison.

Jamie Langdon, of Sherbourne Road, Orpington, walked free from Southwark Crown Court for his role in the £38 million fraud which saw up to 1,900 "ringer" kits fitted to stolen cars and diggers at Image Graphix workshop, based in Manse Parade, Swanley.

He was working for his uncle Richard Shepherd, 43, from Margate, who was the lynchpin for the UK's stolen car ringing process which duped scores of innocent customers.

Shepherd lived a playboy lifestyle with regular trips to five-star hotels in Las Vegas.

The millionaire's gated Birchington mansion had an indoor swimming pool, a casino and walls lined with vintage champagne.

Following his arrest, police discovered he was due to collect a new £136,000 Ferrari F430 from a nearby luxury dealership.

He hired his nephew straight from school aged 17 but paid him a paltry £350 a month.

Langdon was handed a two-year supervision order and 250 hours unpaid community work by Judge Deborah Taylor and Shepherd was jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Outside court, fresh-faced Langdon said: "I was very worried they were going to send me to jail.

"I've never been in trouble before this. It's turned my life upside down being in court and facing prison.

"It's been really stressful for me and my family especially with my uncle involved, very upsetting for everyone.

"I never realised that what I was involved in was unlawful, my uncle told me what to do."

He said he intends to carry on working at Image Grafix as a signwriter once his community punishment is spent.

Mum Karen, 45, by his side said: "I'm very relieved and happy. I will keep an eye on him and make sure he stays out of trouble.

"He's going to report to me at 6.30pm every night until I say so."

Prosecutor David Groome said Shepherd's sign-making business was "perfectly legitimate", but his second company Tags Direct was used in the production of the vehicle ringing equipment.

To change the identity of vehicles Shepherd had their number plates changed and the three VIN identities altered.

Mr Groome said: "The word vehicle in this case is being used in its widest sense, there are boats, trailers and plants and equipment like JCB earth diggers."

He added: "For a price, and quite a high price, he would manufacture false number plates and VIN plates that were needed to ring a car."

Some JCBs cost up to £1 million each and one Terex dumper truck was described as "big as a house".

Lorry drivers travelling to London paid Shepherd to give them a low-polluting engine rating and avoid the £200 daily charge.

"What Shepherd was prepared to do for a price was manufacture false engine data plates and would simply take off the old plate and put the new one on," said Mr Groome.

"The inspector would therefore think the lorry was fitted with a low emission engine."

Shepherd and Langdon also created Single Vehicle Approval Test stickers to bypass safety laws for foreign vehicles, often inferior, brought into the EU.

The pair were originally arrested in 2006 and appeared in court but when released went back to their criminal activity.

Shepherd was handed four years for counterfeiting and six and a half years for money laundering.

Judge Taylor said he was to serve half of his sentences, to run concurrently, less 217 days spent on remand.

Detective Constable Richard Baldwin from the Met's Specialist Crime Directorate said: "Richard Shepherd facilitated the ringing of £38 million worth of stolen vehicles, making this investigation the highest value case handled by the Met's Stolen Vehicle Unit and one of the largest money laundering cases the Met has dealt with.

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