Case of former car dealer on fraud charge hangs in limbo

Former Drivers Choice car dealer Scott Hartwell.
Former Drivers Choice car dealer Scott Hartwell. Contributed

TEN witnesses in a stealing and fraud case involving a former North Rockhampton car dealer have waited three years for the case to go to trial and were left disappointed today.

Two of the witnesses had travelled from Townsville and Brisbane for the hearing.

Scott Andrew Hartwell, who was the director and owner of Drivers Choice used car dealership that used to be located on Queen Elizabeth Drive, was to stand trial in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court on 10 charges including seven stealing, one fraud and two for failing to transfer the registration of a vehicle.

However, a paperwork glitch resulted in the trial being adjourned and the matter to be mentioned in court again in July.

The court heard Hartwell was accused of stealing or fraudulently obtaining up to $70,000 from multiple victims on different dates, involving different vehicles.

Police prosecutor Julie Marsden said Hartwell was initially charged in 2014 and it was set down for trial in 2016, however due to legal technicalities, it didn't proceed.

She said police recharged Hartwell with fresh charges, exactly the same as the ones he was facing in court this year.

Hartwell's barrister Ron Frigo

said the business collapsed in June 2014 and Hartwell was sentenced in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court in January 2015 for charges laid by the Office of Fair Trading.

"My client stole nothing," Mr Frigo said.

"It was the company."

He pointed to the prosecution's case outline (indicating it was the company), which lead to the trial being adjourned.

The court heard the prosecution handed the first version its case outline to the defence Wednesday last week and a second version on Friday but Magistrate Cameron Press ordered police submit a revised case outline to the defence team.

The court adjourned for 45 minutes while this occurred and when it resumed, Mr Frigo argued the short amount of time the defence had been given was unfair and that part of the revised case outline required a forensic accountant's investigation into the five different bank accounts involved.

Mr Press said the defence had plenty of time to prepare for the bank account investigation, however, he agreed the prosecution's case outline should have been delivered in a more timely manner, granting the defence's request for an adjournment.

The case is set for mention on July 28.

Topics:  fraud rockhampton magistrates court stealing

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