A former newspaper publisher turned car salesman was sentenced yesterday to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $370,000 for selling cars he didn’t have.
Hong Nara, 46, publisher of the now-defunct Cambodia Today and ex-owner of Car 52 States Company, was sentenced to a year in prison and fined 2 million riel ($500) for each of the scheme’s 20 victims.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court also ordered him to pay 61 million riel in damages ($15,000) and return the $347,300 he owes cheated customers.
Nara was arrested last June after 20 victims of his sham car company filed complaints, and was convicted of fraud, breach of trust and issuing false cheques, according to judge Y Thavrak.
During his brief stint as a car salesman, Nara charged up to $50,000 for cars imported from the United States.
“After receiving money from [his clients], he did not deliver the cars as promised. He has cheated them out of their money,” said Kong Sam Sareth, vice prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Ly Hour, a victim of Nara’s scam, signed a contract in December 2012 for a 2010 Toyota model to be imported from the US. To buy the car, Hour forked over a $25,000 deposit, according to her defense lawyer. The car was supposed to arrive within 22 days, but it never did.
“When my client demanded her money back, [Nara] issued a check worth $24,500 from Vattanac Bank. But when [she tried to deposit it] . . . there was no money in his account,” Sok Dara, Hour’s defense lawyer, said.
In the face of dozens of other, similar testimonies, Nara maintained his innocence, but said that he could no longer defend himself in court.
“I think that I will not appeal this court’s decision further because I am not able to hire or pay for the lawyer,” he said.
He said that he had no intention of cheating his clients, adding that there had been delays because there was a problem transferring the cars from the US to his company.