A BUSINESSMAN who pocketed nearly £114,000 of customers' money from the sale of caravans has been sent to prison for 16 months.

Money that ought to have been handed over to clients was instead used to pay bills and expenses for Ewood Caravans, Branch Road, Lower Darwen.

Ian Thane, 46, of Kendal Close, Skipton, who is now on benefits, admitted 12 theft charges at Preston Crown Court.

Neville Biddle, prosecuting, said that Thane had had a business called Adlington Caravans, near Chorley. In 2005 it hit financial problems and by November 2006 it was wound up and the defendant made bankrupt.

He could no longer act as a director at Ewood Caravans, which carried on trading.

The offences covered dates between January and October 2007.

The court heard that one victim who agreed to let the defendant sell his motor home for around £34,000 lost out when his insurance refused to pay out afterwards.

He had originally bought his motor home for £43,000. The defendant had earlier sold two static caravans for him in the past and given him the money from the sales without any problems.

Another victim was still paying around £400 a month for the finance on her caravan.

Mr Biddle said: "The victims were people who are not well off, who had saved hard to buy their caravans for their holidays. The loss to them has hit them very hard.

"The upset, loss and inconvenience here are particularly high".

Defence barrister Katherine Pierpoint Thane was now a ‘broken man in a number of ways’.

He said: “It was never his intention to steal money or caravans from people. It came from a financial muddle, in one way like taking money from Peter to pay Paul.

"The business got into a terrible state.”

Judge Michael Byrne told Thane the case was too serious to merit a suspended sentence. He said: "The defendant should have realised the dire straits he was in and the effect his conduct was having on the victims whose assets or cash he was dishonestly devoting to his business."