Preston Magistrates’ Court heard Romeo Ciobanu, 48, had accidentally left the keys for a cleaning cupboard at the Shiny Car Wash on London Road, Walton-le-Dale, back at his home.
He needed to give the other staff access.
Prosecuting, Jim Mowbary said despite the fact he was banned from driving, Ciobanu took the keys to a client’s Kia Rio to go home and get the keys.
However, Ciobanu, of Arnold Street, Preston was then involved in a road collision with a yellow Fiat 500.
The incident, on October 25 last year, left the customer’s car with a £6,000 repair bill and the Fiat with a further £4,965 damage.
It is understood the client’s car was able to be repaired.
Speaking with the aid of a Romanian interpreter who stood next to the dock, Ciobanu pleaded guilty to three charges of aggravated vehicle taking, driving without insurance, and driving while disqualified.
The Post has learned that five days before the incident, police and specialist investigators from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) swooped on the same car wash and spoke to eight Romanian men.
The bench at Preston Magistrates Court imposed a 12 week jail term but agreed to suspended it for two years.
However, during that time Ciobanu must perform 150 hours of unpaid work and pay the affected client £240 compensation.
In addition he was ordered to pay £85 towards prosecution costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
The court ordered him to be further disqualified from driving for two years.
Defending, Bal Minhas said: “He is very remorseful for what happened on this occasion.
“It was a serious error of judgement on his behalf.
It is not the first time a car wash worker has taken a client’s vehicle in the city. Craig Rainford, formerly of Fitzgerald Street, Preston, was jailed for a year after a high speed police chase in a vehicle taken from Eco Car Wash, Deepdale, in 2014.