March 8 2014 Latest news:
Christine Cunningham and David Bale
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
A serial fraudster, who was paid hundreds of pounds by dozens of learner drivers to take their driving theory tests for them, was finally caught by sharp-eyed staff at a King’s Lynn, test centre, a court heard.
Gurmeet Singh. 32, was behind a scam taking 26 theory tests for learner drivers all over the country, including one in Norwich, in December 2010, helping learner drivers fraudulently pass their theory tests between 2010 and 2011.
He escaped justice when he went on the run for two years, Norwich Crown Court heard.
Singh then started up the fraud again, last year , taking theory tests for payment, but was caught when staff at the King’s Lynn centre recognised him as being wanted for a number of frauds around the country involving driving theory tests.
Chris Youell, prosecuting, said his arrest was the result of a three year joint operation between the Driving Standards Agency and police.
He said that Singh’s involvement in the initial offences was found to be part of a wider conspiracy and while others were dealt with for their part, Singh went on the run.
Mr Youell said Singh failed to turn up as part of his police bail conditions in November 2011, and went on the run, but then resurfaced in January last year .
His photos and details were circulated and he was finally caught when he tried to impersonate another learner driver at King’s Lynn test centre, on July 2 last year. Police were called and he was arrested and he accepted he had impersonated learner drivers at various test centres.
Mr Youell said the average charge was between £400 to £750 to take the theory tests for drivers.
He said all of the matters involved taking the theory tests, apart from one unsuccessful attempt to take an actual driving test.
Singh, of no fixed address, who had the help of a punjabi interpreter in court, admitted conspiracy to defraud, between 2010 and 2011,and six frauds in 2013. He was jailed for two years and the court heard he had overstayed his visa so would also be deported.
Judge Anthony Bate said that the driving test was introduced in the 1930s to make roads safer and the theory test had been introduced to make it even more rigorous.
He said his actions had been a “sustained attack on the integrity of the driving test system” and said he was a “serial impersonator”.
Singh was finally caught in King’s Lynn and Judge Bate said: “That was down to the vigilance of test centre staff as by that time there was a system of warning driving test centres to alert them to known impersonators.”
He said that Singh had done the theory test so often that he in fact achieved high scores and it was a case of “practice makes perfect”.
Ian James, for Singh, said he was an impersonator not an organiser.
“He was recruited to this. He was acting under instruction.”
He was doing a job and getting paid for it, but only a small part of the cash ended up in his pocket.
Mr James said that Singh had overstayed his visa and intended to return to India on his release.
He said he was remorseful for what he had done.