An ‘incredibly shallow’ young man obtained high-value cars by taking them on extended test drives and then not returning them, in a bid to impress his ‘equally shallow’ girlfriend.
University student Sean Babalola made high-flying claims, including that he was a football manager, to convince dealers to part with the cars for him to try out.
On one occasion in January the 22-year-old turned up at an Audi dealership in Stafford asking to take a £75,000 Audi Q8 for an extended test drive, explaining that he wanted to take it to show his partner in Wolverhampton.
Babalola, who claimed to be a football manager, claimed to currently drive a Range Rover, and handed over what he said was the key to that vehicle as a guarantee.
But he failed to return the Audi and it was traced to Leamington, where it was recovered undamaged.
That followed other instances where he persuaded staff at a Mercedes dealership in Stratford to let him have the use of a £47,000 car for an extended test drive in October last year – failing to return it.
And on November 30 last year Babalola was allowed to take a top-of-the-range Range Rover worth £72,000 from a dealership in Bedford for an extended test drive.
'Stuck in traffic'
When he was contacted after failing to return later that day, he made excuses, blaming traffic on the M1.
But it was never returned, and was finally located in Leamington on December 3, without the key.
Babalola, of Bevan Avenue, Barking, East London, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of taking cars without consent and one of fraud.
He was given a 12-month community sentence and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and to pay £550 costs, as well as being banned from driving for six months.
Prosecutor Jonathan Veasey-Pugh said: “These offences are all similar in nature.
"He was obtaining high-value desirable cars on extended test drives or by false pretences.
“But he gave his correct details, so his identity would never be in question.”
'An incredibly shallow individual'
When Babalola, who had convictions for careless driving and having no insurance, was arrested, he suggested he had been acting under peer pressure to impress someone, it was heard in court.
Sentencing him Judge Anthony Potter told Babalola: “If what you said to the police is true, it reveals you to have been an incredibly shallow individual and in a relationship with someone who was equally shallow and impressed with such things."
Simon Hunka, defending, said Babalola was in the final year of a degree course at Leicester University, and has interviews for marketing jobs.
And Judge Potter observed: “The conviction is something he’s going to have to declare.
"At the end of your degree and entering the world of work, you are about to find that items like the ones you obtained do not come easily.
“You obtained the use of vehicles worth getting on for £200,000. There is always a cost, and the cost to you is your loss of good character.
“You have criminal convictions which you’re going to have to declare to employers who, particularly in the money management field, will not be impressed by a conviction for fraud.”