A FRAUDSTER who helped con customers — including a grieving widow — out of almost £100,000 has been jailed.

Abdul Wahid Qadir was involved in a sophisticated scam in which a fake company was set up claiming to lease out cars ranging from Ford Kas to luxury BMWs and Audis.

But in reality Qadir, who was office manager for the operation, and his fellow fraudsters took “refundable’ cash deposits and first month lease payments from victims with no intention of supplying the cars they thought they had ordered.

Henry Blackshaw, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court the fraud ran between March 13 to May 24 2012 with the company, Synergy, operating from business premises in Rochdale.

Qadir, aged 40, of Fifth Avenue, Heaton, along with the company’s salesman John Owen, aged 41, of Kitson Hill Road, Mirfield, Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud whilst Sahir Ashraf, aged 36, of Delauneys Road, Crumpsall admitted concealing the proceeds of crime and a further five unrelated charges of fraudulent use of credit card details.

The court heard the mastermind of the operation, a man named Quddas, skipped police bail and is believed to be out of the country.

Mr Blackshaw said: “Considerable effort was put into the design of a website, creation of business cards and other professional literature that was used to con potential customers.”

In total 44 customers, ranging from taxi drivers to highly paid medical professionals from all over the country, handed over an average of £1,500 to £2,000 each — £97,380.02 in total.

One customer, widow Emma Fieldman was conned out of £2,000 she had been left by her late husband.

A further £6,709.78 was lost by a stationary business and a marketing firm.

None of the customers ever received a car as the fraudsters deliberately delayed or promised delivery after May 15.

Mr Blackshaw said: “When disappointed customers tried to contact the business on or after May 15 the phone lines had been cut off and the website said that it had gone into liquidation.”

The gang was caught when Owen’s fingerprint was recovered from promotional material and a customer handed police a CCTV image of him.

Further CCTV footage from a bank where Quddas and Ashraf had withdrawn cash showed them getting into a silver Avensis car, which had been rented by Owen.

After their arrests they were identified by customers, innocent employees and their landlord.

In mitigation, Hunter Gray, representing Qadir, told Judge Timothy Stead, his client had not been convicted of an offence for 20 years.

He added: “There are family commitments towards his mother, brother and three children, aged one, four and seven.”

Qadir was jailed for 27 months, Owen was also given a 27 month sentence.

Sahir Ashraf was given a total sentence of 18 months for his part in the operation, and for the five unrelated charges of fraudulent use of credit card details.

Passing sentence, Judge Timothy Stead said the company “had all the appearances of a sound, sophisticated and successful business”.

He added: “The company had offices, a bank account, and glossy brochures and prospectuses were prepared. All the appearance of a proper, respectable company.

“The fraud and the loss is something that you two (Qadir and Owen) bear heavy responsibility for.”