CONTROVERSIAL car dealers who have been lying low amid a storm of complaints over defective cars and bouncing refund cheques are back in business – in the same premises as a sexy underwear shop and boutique.
The Daily Echo can reveal that Stan Rudgley and Richard Burbage have resurfaced after closing Hampshire dealerships following fury over cars they were selling and breaking promises to make amends.
In the latest twist to the saga, the pair are now involved in a new online car dealership, Valley Cars – which operates from the same premises as a shop selling ladies lingerie called Ophelia’s Boutique.
It is located in a rented space in the Botley Mills complex, in Botley.
That boutique firm is run by Lorraine Burbage, the wife of Richard Burbage.
Valley Cars uses the same phone number as the boutique, which sells dresses, lingerie and corsets.
When the Daily Echo turned up there yesterday, Mr Rudgley was photographed before disappearing soon after.
Mr and Mrs Burbage, who live in Botley, both owe more than 11 million Australian dollars to hundreds of people after the demise of a firm they owned, We Buy Any Car, in Australia, which copied the name of the successful British online car seller but had no connection to that firm.
They suddenly left their luxury home in Brisbane in 2012 following a flurry of media reports of angry motorists who had given them their cars to sell but got nothing back. New South Wales authorities have since banned Mr Burbage from being a director for ten years.
As revealed by the Daily Echo, Mr Burbage has been connected to Woolston Car Supermarket, in Southampton, which closed suddenly in January amid mounting complaints over vehicles they were selling – leaving customers demanding repairs or refunds in the lurch.
Horror stories about cars they sold include someone buying a previously written-off vehicle and a car fitted with unregistered plates, while others were found to be dangerous.
Some people – in many cases hard-pressed families – handed their cars back for repairs and claim they were not returned to them before the company closed, despite having bought the cars.
Daily Echo inquiries discovered that the Woolston dealership had actually moved 12 miles down the road to an industrial estate in Fareham, opening up as Fort Wallington Car Sales, with the same director, Stan Rudgley.
Daily Echo reporters then confronted Mr Rudgley and he was filmed promising to make amends to people who bought faulty cars, as well as refunds – after issuing a string of bouncing cheques.
But just days later that dealership also shut up shop, leaving dozens of people in the lurch yet again.
Ever since, mystery has surrounded the whereabouts of Mr Rudgley, who also trades under the name Service 4 Life.
Last night Mr Rudgley made contact with the Daily Echo after we asked him to comment on the latest developments – but instead of revealing what was going on he unleashed a torrent of abuse by email.
Mrs Burbage was not responding to her mobile phone last night, while her husband was also unavailable. He insisted back in January that he had parted ways with Mr Rudgley.
As well as Woolston Car Supermarket, documents reveal that Mr Rudgley and Mr Burbage were connected to another firm at the same site in Hazel Road, in Woolston, called Hampshire Vehicle Sales.
Trading Standards are currently carrying out a detailed investigation into the two firms, in what a senior officer has described as one of the biggest cases of its kind in decades.
So far they are dealing with the cases of more than 60 customers.
A spokesman said: “The investigation into the dealings of the Woolston Car Supermarket and the traders associated with it is ongoing.
“This is a complex case that has impacted upon many people and we’d like to reassure those affected that as soon as Trading Standards are in a position to provide an update on the progress of the investigation they will do so.”