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Following his arrest in Bexhill, Sussex the previous Friday, Moss, of Eastbourne, appeared at Harlow Magistrates Court on Tuesday July 29. He pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining property by deception with a number of other offences taken into account. Granted bail, Mr Moss will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on August 29.

In the space of six weeks in June and July, more than a dozen auctioneers in and around the M25 were hit by the systematic deception. In each case a man had visited the auction house earlier in the year, spending a small sum of money and paying by cheque to establish a line of credit. Returning later, he spent hundreds, and in many cases several thousands of pounds on antiques, and paid again by cheque – but this time the account was closed and subsequent replacement cheques stopped before they could be presented to the bank.

Following his arrest, the victims were left to reflect upon the size of the scam (that collectively ran into tens of thousands) and consider how it might have been avoided. Several questioned took issue with HSBC bank who had been made aware of the dud cheques but, for reasons of client confidentiality, had not pursued the matter with the police.

Police have recovered some items but it is thought that most of the goods obtained by the deception were sold into the antiques trade at local markets at knock-down prices.