Paul Randle was found guilty of fraud at Exeter Crown Court on Tuesday
A boatyard boss based in Devon has been found guilty of swindling customers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
A jury at Exeter Crown Court found Paul Randle of Exe Leisure Business in Topsham Quay guilty of fraud totalling £163,585.78, within two hours.
The 48-year-old, along with his colleague Andrew Bowden, sold boats belonging to clients and then used the money to pay off business debts between August 2005 and June 2006, telling owners their vessels had not yet been sold.
Mr Bowden has already admitted to fraud charges but has tried to play down his role by entering a basis of plea.
A number of fraudulent activities went on at the business before it went bust, including failure to pass money on to clients from boat sales, selling boats bought on a hire purchase scheme and taking money for outboards, which were never supplied.
Mr Randle denied the fraud charges of which he has been found guilty, previously stating that he was not aware the company had lost so much money and always believed there was enough to pay everybody should anything go wrong.
Sentencing will be carried out following a fact-finding hearing to establish the role of his colleague Mr Bowden, as the prosecution do not believe that Mr Bowden only acted dishonestly in the weeks leading up to the company going into administration.
In court on Tuesday, Judge Wassall told Mr Randle that the severity of his crimes warranted a prison sentence, but that he would need advice from the probation service before sentencing.
“There is an issue in relation to your co-defendants as to whether the prosecution have proved their version of events,” said Judge Wassall.
He added: “Your offending is obviously serious and crosses the custody threshold. I will have to consider it with an open mind.”
Image credit: Exeter Express and Echo