They changed seats on the eastbound M54, between junctions 2 and 1 in Staffordshire, because 20-year-old Abdilahi Mohamed, who had been driving, was disqualified.
“You were drifting between lanes causing obvious danger,” said Judge Niclas Parry at Mold Crown Court.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Mohamed, who failed to appear for the hearing.
He and 21-year-old Harun Buni were on their way back to London after targeting hotels in North Wales the night they were caught
Mohamed, of Convent Way, Southall, and Buni, of Moyne Place, West Twyford, had earlier pleaded guilty to dangerous driving of a Vauxhall Astra in December 2019 “changing drivers while the vehicle was in motion” and to fraud.
Judge Parry said they were “professional fraudsters” who had tried to swindle thousands of pounds by interfering with hotels’ card payment machines to get refunds.
They had done this late at night when just a few staff, such as porters, were at work, and at one hotel had been offered hot drinks.
When stopped they were returning from unsuccessful sorties to North Wales hotels – the Deganwy Quay, where they claimed to have booked a room, St George’s in Llandudno, the Castle in Ruthin and the Wild Pheasant in Llangollen.
But at one, the Oriel House in St Asaph, they managed to get an £8,000 refund in two transactions, but this had been returned.
John Philpotts, prosecuting, said that at the Wild Pheasant someone got the registration number of their car.
In Cardiff last year they had been sentenced for similar offences in South Wales.
Buni’s barrister Mark Watson said he was due to start a second year at university.
He was given a six-month jail sentence for dangerous driving and a 14 months term for fraud. The 20-month total sentence will be suspended for two years and he will carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
He was also banned from the road for 18 months and must retake his driving test.
Referring to the hotel crimes the judge said: “It was a sophisticated pre-planned fraud targeting the hotel industry.”