Two criminals have each been sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, after swindling around 80 customers - including a wheelchair bound couple - out of an estimated total of £291,000 for shoddy and unnecessary housing repair works.
The investigation was co-ordinated by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands as part of a complex four-year operation.
Nottinghamshire County Council, which hosts the Scambuster Team East Midlands, has welcomed the sentencing.
Gareth Bryan, 34, of Lytham Gardens, Bestwood, and Martin Jacks, 35, of Wellesley Crescent, Broxtowe each admitted to three counts of fraudulent trading under companies called Premier Roof Coatings, Premier Wall and Drive Coatings and PRC Home Improvements. Bryan also admitted to money laundering and concealing criminal property.
The total value of the fraud involving these companies through their activities is estimated at around £1.18m.
The criminals ruthlessly targeted vulnerable people for unnecessary or shoddy building work. They often went door-to-door, claiming that they had been working on a neighbour’s property and had noticed an issue with the house, roof or driveway. However as work was being carried out victims noticed that the men:
- Did not have the proper tools or materials to carry out tasks such as cementing repairs
- Did not use appropriate safety equipment
- Had caused damage to their property
Councillor Alice Grice, Community Safety Committee Vice-Chairman at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This is another significant coup by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands which helps to protect vulnerable people in our communities from this sort of crime. The county council is proud to host this specialist team which stops rogue traders, counterfeiters and other scams across the region.
“Some of the victims’ accounts are quite harrowing and we are very pleased that we have been able to bring these men to justice and send another clear message that we will always investigate this sort of crime.
“People should be very wary of buying anything on the doorstep, and should check the firm is reputable and if in doubt always say no.”
Wheelchair-bound couple Valerie Watson, 62, and Raymond Fairgrieve, 72, were among the victims targeted by Bryan and Jacks. The couple handed over £1,100 in cash after the men knocked on the door in summer 2014 to say they were working on a neighbour's property, and could repaint the roof of their bungalow, remove the moss and mend loose tiles. Following the completion of the works, Valerie and Raymond had the roof inspected by an independent expert who said that roof tiles had actually been loosened, the painting was not completed properly and there was still moss on the roof.
Valerie said: "We were furious but there was nothing we could do as they had demanded cash and we took them at their word they would do a good job. They clearly targeted elderly and vulnerable people and we would never trust anyone again. We are very pleased that the county council’s trading standards have been able to take court action against them. What they did to us was unforgiveable."
Another elderly victim, 87 year old Eileen Reeve, from Chesterfield, was conned out of £11,500 after she commissioned work on her drive and house wall. The plastic roof created for her car on the driveway flew off shortly after being fitted and other repairs soon started to crack and sprout grass.
Eileen said: "They preyed on me as I was vulnerable and the work they did was awful. They kept coming up to me over the space of five days stating that various jobs needed doing to my house and driveway, at a cost of around £80 a time. They then told me the final bill was £11,500. I wrote a cheque, but they told me to do a bank transfer, thankfully my bank were concerned and stopped the transaction, alerting police and trading standards to the situation."
The county council also has a Trading Standards approved trader scheme in partnership with Checkatrade which helps to drive work towards reputable organisations and tradespeople and away from rogue traders.
If you need work done in Nottinghamshire, you can find a fully Trading Standards approved trader by visiting www.checkatrade.com, or by calling Citizens Advice on 03454 040506, who will find one for you.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: "It is clear that these criminals created these companies with the sole purpose of deceiving vulnerable consumers out of large sums of money. Doorstep crime is an issue that continues to cost many members of our community dearly, not only financially but in terms of their confidence too.
"It is a priority for National Trading Standards to ensure that the criminals who commit these crimes are brought to justice. I congratulate everyone who was involved in uncovering and putting a stop to this criminal activity.
“I would urge people to think twice before agreeing to buy products or services from cold callers. Always check references and credentials before paying out any money and if you are in any doubt, contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.”
The investigation was originally launched in 2012 by Lincolnshire Trading Standards following complaints from elderly residents in the county that a groups of individuals had coerced them to pay for roof and driveway work, which was often unnecessary. But when the scale of the fraud, the geographical area it covered and the number of victims became apparent, the case was referred to the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands, hosted by Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards team.
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands team on Simon Redfern at Nottinghamshire County Council on 01159773791.
For more general enquiries regarding National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
About National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
National Trading Standards funds the Scambuster Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CeNTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5. Tri Region Scambusters (TRS), on behalf of Trading Standards South East Ltd (TSSEL), East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and London Trading Standards Association (LoTSA)
6. Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7. Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
For more information, please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk