A con-artist who claimed to be a legitimate 'vehicle immobiliser' was found guilty of blackmail and fraud at Manchester Crown Court after committing crimes that were "a form of piracy".
Mohammed Asif Ashraf, 31, ran two unlicensed clamping companies, Clamp You and Unauthorised Clamping Solutions in 2009. He targeted quiet backstreets in Manchester city centre and employed people to seek out potential victims.
He clamped at least 50 cars and told the owners to pay £150 for their release or they would be towed. He told his victims a further fine of £400, not including storage fees, would be charged.
Mr Ashraf used a vehicle with official-looking logos; he gave his employees company baseball caps and walkie-talkies to give the impression of a legitimate business.
However, Mr Ashraf did not have a licence to operate a clamping company and he carried forged credentials.
Judge Michael Henshell said: "The facts of this case have demonstrated there is an urgent need for police to scrutinise the activities of car clamping operations in and around the city centre.
"In many instances, people were clamped at wholly unsociable hours - when they contacted police they were told it was a civil matter, as it may well be when clamping is carried out in a proper authorised manner.
"In this case the defendant wasn't properly authorised and the ID badge shown was utterly bogus.
"The operation of his businesses was a form of piracy committed on the streets of this city in which cars were held hostage for £150, backed up with the threat of being towed away."
Mr Ashraf was found guilty of holding himself out as an approved person, two charges of making a false declaration, two charges of possessing articles for use in fraud, four counts of blackmail and perverting the course of justice.
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