A WIDNES mechanic who stole parts from a new hire car to replace components in his own older vehicle has been prosecuted.

Alexander Keating, aged 23, of Upton Lane, stole a gear shift knob, steering wheel, brake callipers and other parts from an Audi A3 loaned to him by accident management company, Accident Exchange and swapped them with parts from his ageing Audi S3.

He was caught when a garage worker at a local bodyshop spotted the mismatch of old parts on the A3.

They reported the theft to local Police and Accident Exchange’s bespoke anti-fraud team, Asset Protection Unit (APU).

Keating pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court on February 17.

Sentencing him at Warrington Crown Court four days later, Judge Nicholas Woodward described the case as “a serious example of theft”.

He was sentenced to 200 hours unpaid community service, fined £2,004, and ordered him to pay £535 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

Keating, a bodyshop technician, stole the parts after his mother damaged her car in an accident and hired the Audi A3 from Accident Exchange.

He used the workshop of his employer, Blue Bell Bodyshop in Wilmslow, to carry out the parts swap, but lost his job after being caught.

Neil Thomas, director of investigative services at APU, said today: “This guy is clearly no master criminal, to think that he could swap parts on one of our cars without us noticing.

“This case was another great example of good teamwork and how APU can work with businesses and local police to bring all manner of motor fraudsters to justice.”

APU has helped to save £200,000 in fraudulent claims over the last 18 months.

This organisation provides accident investigation services to solicitors, insurance companies and credit hire organisations.

It is staffed by former police officers and works with law enforcement agencies and other organisations to combat fraud.