Benefit cheating builder jailed for defrauding elderly and vulnerable victims

Darren Scott

Posted on: 5 August 2015

A benefit cheating South Devon builder has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for fraud and money laundering offences.

Appearing at Exeter Crown Court, 46 year old Darren Scott of Hele Road, Kingsteignton, was sentenced following  investigations led by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Team.

The court heard how, over an eight month period in 2011, Mr Scott deliberately targeted a vulnerable 85 year old pensioner from Okehampton, charging her over £20,000 for building work on their home.  When assessed by a qualified surveyor, much of the work was found to be below acceptable standards and charged at an inflated price. Mr Scott had also charged for some work which he had not done.

Trading as Sure Fix Home, Mr Scott concealed his fraudulent income in his mother’s bank account and traded from her former home in Chudleigh.

The rogue builder was also prosecuted in a Police case for targeting a vulnerable male in Exeter, who he charged  £3,600 for building a roof when no work was carried out.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards, said:

“This is an excellent result, and I am pleased that our trading standards team has stopped another rogue trader from ripping off any more of our residents.

“Tributes must be paid to the neighbours of the Okehampton pensioner at the centre of our case, who has now sadly passed away. They alerted our Trading Standards team, the pensioner’s support worker and her bank of their concerns. Their witness testimony and evidence were put to the defence to show proof of Scott’s guilt and helped lead to his eventual guilty pleas and today’s sentencing result.

“It is pleasing to know that in many of our communities good neighbours look out for the welfare of each other. When they report matters like this to Devon and Somerset Trading Standards we, and the Police, will do our best to bring the offenders to justice, even when they flee the country for several years.

“If you are looking for good reputable traders in Devon I would encourage you to use our Buy With Confidence scheme to find someone we have approved and vetted so you can trust them.”

Mr Scott was also convicted of four counts of fraud on 14 November 2012 for offences occurring in 2007 and 2008, and  sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

He failed to answer bail and absconded to Thailand where he remained until his return to the UK in December 2014, when he was arrested at Gatwick Airport.

Whilst in Thailand, Scott continued to claim UK state benefits. He pleaded guilty to benefit fraud in a case brought by the Department of Work and Pensions an earlier hearing at Exeter Magistrates Court. The Magistrates ruled that the matter be sent to the Crown Court for him to be sentenced along with all other matters.

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards approved businesses, including, plumbers, builders and electricians can be found on the ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme website.

The scheme promotes the highest standards of trading across the two counties, for the benefit of both consumers and businesses. Businesses who become members of the scheme undertake to operate their company in a legal, honest and fair way. They will also offer a customer-friendly service and respond to complaints in a constructive manner.

Anyone with concerns, or who would like advice about their rights, should telephone The Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 0404 506 or visit their website.

Need to report illegal trading activity? Call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4040 506. You can also get advice on a range of consumer issues by visiting their website or logging on to the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service website.

Businesses can also find advice from Devon and Somerset Trading Standards website or call 01392 381381

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