A BOGUS cab driver used stickers to trick potential customers into thinking he was behind the wheel of a licensed taxi.

Dennis Hewlett used chequered stickers to make his car look like a private-hire vehicle.

He also stuck no-smoking signs in the front windows of his dark-blue Vauxhall Zafira.

But he was caught out when he picked up two people who turned out to be council licensing agents.

The pair, who were working a joint sting between Southampton City Council and Eastleigh Borough Council, were picked up while standing outside Boomerang bar in Hamble.

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They were approached by Hewlett, in his fake taxi, who picked them up and drove them to the Tesco store in Bursledon.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard how he then charged the pair a fare and gave them a business card before they got out.

He was then approached by a third council worker, in another car, who followed the unlicensed vehicle.

Eastleigh Borough Council prosecutor Dave Foster said both Hewlett, of Meon Court, Southampton, and his vehicle, were unlicensed to provide either private hire or taxi services.

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He failed to appear at court last week and was found guilty of illegally plying for hire in his absence.

His sentencing was adjourned until later this month to enable the council to make further enquiries.

On the same day, Eastleigh Borough Council also successfully prosecuted a licensed private hire driver who was illegally picking up passengers from a taxi rank.

Private-hire vehicle journeys must be pre-booked, while licensed Hackney Carriage drivers can carry out street and taxi rank pick-ups.

Minicab driver Shaun Scott, 46, of Fleet End Road, Warsash, was caught out in a separate sting, when he agreed to drive two undercover licensing officers from near the taxi rank at Eastleigh rail station to Botley last November.

He was hit with fines and costs in excess of £2,000 for the offence and for driving without valid insurance – which would have covered him for taxi rank pick-ups.

Scott, who was sentenced in his absence, also had eight penalty points added to his licence.

Eastleigh Borough Council’s Cabinet Lead for Transport, Councillor David Airey, said: “These two prosecutions are an excellent result for the legal and licensing teams and are a tribute to the painstaking way they build a case.

“Unlicensed drivers are not DBS (formerly CRB) checked and have not passed the Fit and Proper Person Test that indicates their suitability for the role.

“Getting a lift in an unlicensed vehicle , or a private hire vehicle that has been plying for trade, means that passengers are not insured in the event of an accident.”