A bogus buyer rode off on two valuable vintage motorcycles after fooling their sellers he was taking them on test drives.
Kevin Tattersall turned to crime after losing his job and lying to his wife and family because he did not want to admit to being unemployed.
The Cornishman devised a scheme for stealing treasured historic motorbikes which he took back to his workshop in Penryn and broke up to sell off the parts.
He stole two Triumph Bonneville bikes by posing as a genuine buyer. On each occasion the owners rode with him on the test drives but each time he turned off unexpectedly and gave them the slip.
He left a £500 deposit with one seller from Exmouth which turned out to be counterfeit notes, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Tattersall, 47, of Trenoweth Terrace, Mabe Burnthouse, Penryn, admitted two thefts and was jailed for 21 months, suspended for two years and ordered to do 240 hours unpaid community work.
Judge Phillip Wassall told him: ”These were professionally executed, carefully planned and targeted thefts. These were valuable, treasured if not vintage machines. Triumph Bonnevilles are iconic within the motorcycling community.
“The owners were accompanying you on test rides when you rode off and when discovered you tried to claim one of these was your bike.
“The way you planned this makes it more serious and there is a suggestion of the use of counterfeit currency.”
Jonathan Barnes, prosecuting, said Tattersall stole one 1960 bike from Daniel Everett in Exmouth after he advertised it for £9,000 on eBay.
He left a deposit of £500 which appeared to be fake when Mr Everett tried to spend it after Tattersall had taken a side road and vanished during his test drive.
In an identical theft he stole another Bonneville from a seller in Solihull who advertised it in a specialist magazine.
Mr Barnes said: ”When Tattersall was at Mr Everett’s home in Exmouth he had a cup of tea and this brought about his downfall because a swab was taken by police and his DNA recovered.”
He said a bike identical to the stolen machine but repainted was found at Tattersall’s workshop and seized by police but then stolen in a break in at the police pound in Falmouth.
Mr Barnes said Tattersall had originally been charged with this theft but the charge had not been proceeded with because of lack of evidence.
Nigel Wraith, defending, said Tattersall had worked for himself in West Cornwall but his business dried up during the recession and he could not face telling his wife and family.
He had gone through the pretence that he was still working when he was not and had been tempted into committing the thefts.
He said: ”He acknowledges the seriousness of what he has done and describes it as the stupidest thing he has ever done in his life.”