A 'modern day pirate' who illegally clamped drivers and charged them sky-high rates to release their cars has been jailed for five-and-a-half-years.
Ruthless Mohammed Ashraf, of Blackley, blackmailed 50 motorists in Manchester into handing over up to £600 a time through his unlicensed company 'Clamp you!'
The cowboy businessman and his gang would hide around corners in a van and target the vehicles of commuters, shoppers and party-goers driving into the city centre.
One man was even clamped while still sat in his car waiting to pick up his wife.
Dr Stephen Cain, whose car was unlawfully towed while he was at a New Year's Eve party in 2009, signed over his vehicle to Ashraf completely because the fee to get it back exceeded its worth.
The clamper reportedly sold it on for another £450.
Another victim was bullied and harassed by one of Ashraf's cronies until they agreed to pay a release fee of £40.
Ashraf, 31, tricked his victims using a homemade ID badge made from photocopy paper stuck on a bank card.
He also operated a speeding ticket scam, in which he transferred penalties to an innocent driver.
Through his dodgy firm, RemoveAllPoints.com, Ashraf convinced people he could legitimately remove points from their licences.
But after taking their fee, he transferred all the tickets to an innocent man - a former customer of his car hire service.
Innocent Amar Majeed was wrongly named as the man at the wheel of high-performance cars and a motorbike that jumped lights and veered into bus lanes.
Mr Majeed was forced to go to courts across the country - at one point travelling from his Glasgow home to Kent - to protest his innocence.
Ashraf was found found guilty at Manchester Crown Court of five charges of blackmail, two offences of possessing articles for use in fraud, three counts of perverting the course of justice and an offence under the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
He denied all the charges and during the trial defiantly gave V for victory signs to photographers taking his picture.
A taxi driver called Mohammed Ali, 50, called Ashraf 'immoral' after he was clamped and charged £150 by the cowboy despite being legally parked.
Mr Ali said: 'He’s so full of himself
and you can’t trust people like him. He was very threatening to me. He was a big guy and was intimidating.
'He’s harming people and he’s dangerous. The way he speaks and acts - he’s in his own little world. He doesn’t respect anyone else.
'It’s really bad what he’s done to people. It’s against the law and it’s immoral. I would like to ask him, "if someone did that to your family how would you feel?"
'If someone is working 12 hour days to support their family and then someone else comes along and takes their hard earned money from them, it’s wrong and people like him should be put in prison for a long time.'
He’s harming people and he’s dangerous. The way he speaks and acts - he’s in his own little world. He doesn’t respect anyone else apart from himself.
Earlier the court heard Ashraf had enrolled on a course with the Security Industry Authority, which regulates workers such as doormen and clampers.
But he was not given a licence and forged his credentials so he could set up Clamp You! Ltd in 2009, which later became Unauthorised Parking Solutions Ltd.
Any car that was clamped was left with a telephone number stuck on its window. Ashraf would answer and demand a £150 before the car was released, plus further costs of up to £400, not including storage fees.
The conman was often nearby to deal with any queries.
One driver, Oksana Sabadisa, told court she was clamped in the car park of the finance company where she worked. She took a picture of Ashraf’s badge and numberplate to check it was legitimate.
Lauren Youldon had her car towed away from outside flats where she lived.
Police raided Ashraf’s home after suspecting he had been lying to courts to dodge motoring convictions.
Judge Michael Henshell said: 'The facts of this case have demonstrated there is an urgent need for police to scrutinise the activities of car clamping operations in and around the city centre.
'In many instances, people were clamped at wholly unsociable hours - when they contacted police they were told it was a civil matter, as it may well be when clamping is carried out in a proper authorised manner.
'In this case the defendant wasn’t properly authorised and the ID badge shown was utterly bogus. The operation of his businesses was a form of piracy committed on the streets of this city in which cars were held hostage.'
One of Ashraf’s accomplices Mudasir Saeed, 31, of Heald Green, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice. She was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.