A MAN who tried to pawn fake Rolex watches with an accomplice was caught out by an eagle-eyed Chester city centre jeweller.

Nigel Wheelhouse, 43, appeared at Chester Crown Court on Thursday, June 10, having pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and possessing items for use in fraud.

Wheelhouse appeared from custody as he had gone on the run before court proceedings had concluded, was arrested and sentenced to a month in prison.

Prosecuting, John Oates said it was on November 10, 2018 when a member of staff at S.S. Milton Jeweller and Pawnbroker on Eastgate Street saw two men outside the shop, talking to each other.

Wheelhouse remained outside, by a Jaguar he had been driving, while his accomplice – Michael Breen, now 56, of Badger Bait, Little Neston – walked into the shop carrying a Rolex watch-branded box into the shop.

Breen attempted to pass off the watches as genuine Rolex watches.

Mr Oates explained the proprietor was an expert and able to identify various things with the watch that showed it was a fake.

He said it was "a very good quality fake" and, but for the jeweller's years of extensive expertise, would not have been able to tell the difference.

Breen was questioned about the watch, but gave unsatisfactory answers and looked nervous, leaving the shop and leaving behind the watch and his identity documents.

He attempted to get into the Jaguar but, upon Wheelhouse noticing the Jaguar was being photographed, drove off, leaving Breen behind. The Jaguar's number plate was taken down.

A member of the public later saw boxes being removed from a Jaguar, being placed near a power station.

The member of the public thought the activity looked suspicious and "did the right and proper" thing by calling police, who found 14 Rolex branded boxes and two more fake Rolex watches.

Wheelhouse was traced and arrested.

In interview, he gave what the prosecution said was a "cock and bull story" about being duped over the authenticity of the watches, and claimed Breen had gone into the shop to gather information whether the watches were real.

Wheelhouse had no previous convictions.

The court heard Breen had previously been sentenced at Chester Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, to a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete an alcohol treatment programme and 20 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

Defending, Anna Price said Wheelhouse had fully accepted what he had done.

When he was last in court, Wheelhouse was suffering from alcoholism, anxiety and PTSD and he "hit the bottle" and "buried his head in the sand", which had led to him going on the run before being caught and put in prison, which was his first time in custody.

But, Ms Price added, Wheelhouse had "turned things around" and had acquired full-time employment.

Sentencing, Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett said the finding of the 14 Rolex-branded boxes was quite important, as they "gave a gloss of reality to the totally fake and fraudulent activity".

While the exact value of the watches – had they been real and sold – would never be known, it was deduced the value of three Rolex watches was around £12,500.

Wheelhouse was sentenced to a 10-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours unpaid work. He must also complete 15 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

The fake watches and boxes were to be forfeited and destroyed.