A CONFIDENCE trickster has been jailed after he stole a friend’s identity and bought a £17,000 BMW in his name.

Paul Watkins from Dawlish Warren intercepted the victim’s mail while house-sitting for him and obtained all the details he needed of his driving licence and bank account to pose as him.

He bought the car from a dealership on credit and the first the victim knew of the swindle was when he was sent details of the £480 a month payments for which he had become liable along with Watkins’s speeding tickets, which were in his name.

Watkins also used a false name in a completely separate fraud in which he conned a garage in Ottery St Mary into giving him a courtesy car while they renovated his clapped-out old Land Rover.

The garage became suspicious when they started receiving a string of parking tickets but Watkins refused to return the Discovery for almost five months.

He also spun a web of lies about who was going to pay the £8,000 cost of fixing his unroadworthy Land Rover, inventing a false name and claiming an insurance company would pay.

The garage owner stopped work when he realised Watkins was using a false name but he had already run up a bill of £810, which was never paid.

Watkins is a serial conman who lived in Devonport until 2018 and was jailed at Plymouth Crown Court for frauds in 2010, 2012, and 2018, where he received a sentence of a single day for a £7,000 disability benefit fiddle.

He was living in Dawlish Warren when he committed the new swindles in 2019 and 2020 but also using the alias of David Welsh with an address in Wykes Road in Exeter. The total value of all his frauds came to just under £26,000.

Watkins, aged 50, of Lady’s Mile, Dawlish Warren, admitted five counts of fraud and was jailed for two years and a month by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: ‘I have to look at the number of different lies you told to various people as you committed these offences and sought to evade responsibility for them when you were rumbled to understand the level of sustained dishonesty and deception you engaged in.’

Mr Rowan Jenkins, prosecuting, said Watkins took an unroadworthy Land Rover for repair to the Beacon Garage in Ottery St Mary in June 2019, claiming that the repair bill would be met by an insurance company.

The owner gave him a courtesy car but soon realised there was a problem when he started receiving parking tickets for it and did not receive any money from the insurance company.

He had to hunt down Watkins before he eventually repossessed the courtesy car in November.

Mr Jenkins said that at the same time Watkins befriended a man in a pub in Exeter and told him he knew an off duty AA man who could fix his car. He also said he could get him cheap insurance. His friend paid the money but got nothing in return.

He also allowed Watkins to stay at his home in central Exeter for a short time in November, during which he opened the mail and obtained all the details he needed to buy a BMW for £17,000 from an online dealership.

The victim only realised he had been conned when demands for payment and speeding tickets started turning up. He called in the police who arrested Watkins.

Mr Ian Graham, defending, said Watkins has serious health problems and has changed his way of life, staying out of trouble for three years. He said he would benefit more from working with probation in the community than going to jail.