Jail for conman who claimed he was a racing team chief

25/02/2016

A 37-year-old man who pleaded guilty to defrauding a number of hotels and a victim of £4,306.31 by impersonating as an employee of a prestigious Formula 1 racing team has today been jailed to two years.

Stuart Howatson pretended to be the Chief Operating Officer for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited and set up a number of fake email addresses in order to support his fraud.

Between 15 January 2014 and 25 January 2014, the defendant stayed at a hotel in Bewdley for a total of 10 nights and after each stay he asked the hotel to invoice the F1 team who he claimed would pay the bill for accommodation and meals - this totalled 387.30.

He also stayed at hotel in Kidderminster between 30 March 2014 and 10 June 2014 for a total of 27 nights and again asked the hotel to invoice the F1 team who would settle his bill for accommodation and meals - this totalled 2419.01.

When payments were not made, the hotels contacted the F1 team who informed them that the defendant was not an employee of their company.

Howatson also offered another victim a job with the F1 team and defrauded him of 1,500 which he convinced the victim was to cover legal costs.

The defendant continued his scam and contacted two IT companies, and again under the guise of being a high ranking employee of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited, he ordered a number of products and services. Purchases orders were raised by one company totalling 224,409.93 and the other of $1.1million. When payments were not forthcoming the companies contacted the F1 team who informed them that they had been victims of a fraud as Howatson had never been an employee with them.

The defendant was eventually arrested, charged and later pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud and one count of theft.

Marion Bibb, Senior Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Stuart Howatson would wear official branded clothes of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited and introduce himself to others as a senior official of the team. He also had detailed knowledge of how the racing team operated as well as computers.

"He used this knowledge and pretence to spin a web of lies in order to defraud his victims of thousands of pounds.

"The consequences of his deceit was serious as it meant that hotels were conned out of payments for accommodation and meals, a number of IT business thought that they had won large contracts with a prestigious racing brand and he had convinced a victim that he had landed a dream senior role with the F1 racing team.

"The CPS will now take steps to recover the amounts stolen."