Rogue traders found guilty after targeting Devon’s vulnerable
Posted on: 18 December 2015
Three men have been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the vulnerable and elderly following an eight-day trial at Exeter Crown Court.
Thomas Maughan, 26, and Thomas Mahon, 45, both of Princes Paddock, Farringdon, pleaded not guilty to the charge brought by the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.
A third man, Matthew Latham, 35, of the same address, pleaded guilty to the same offence.
During his summing up Judge Erik Salomonsen, who bailed the men until sentencing on 4th February 2016, warned them that they could all be jailed.
A fourth man, Maughan’s cousin Terence Maughan, 21, from Bristol, was found not guilty by the jury.
The court heard that the men were part of a gang who traded as Wimpey Construction Paving and Cleaning Services Ltd.
And between August and November 2013, the gang attempted to carry out work at the homes of primarily elderly and vulnerable residents in Newton Abbot, Dawlish and Seaton.
Their tactics included cold calling, overcharging for work, applying high pressure sales techniques and insisting upon cash payments for what experts say was shoddy, poor standard work.
In some cases the men did not carry out the work that was agreed and failed to provide customers with information as to their right to cancel the contract.
On one occasion a 93-year-old man in Seaton was on the verge of handing over £5,200 for paving work on his drive, when a bank cashier became suspicious and alerted police and Devon and Somerset Trading Standards.
An 81-year-old man, also from Seaton, who has since died, became suspicious of the gang when they demanded cash half-way through the work on his drive.
He was so concerned about their behaviour and attitude he called the police.
Other victims included a Seaton widow of Japanese origin whose English was not good, and a man in Dawlish who came back from holiday to find work had been done on his path without his agreement, and for which he was then asked to pay.
A woman in Newton Abbot was charged £490 to have a sealant applied to her roof – but the only work carried out was pressure washing her roof with her own water.
She was then bullied into going to a cashpoint twice in two days to withdraw the money with the gang following her.
When she returned to her house she found they had parked across her driveway forcing her to pass by them before she could enter her own home.
Judge Erik Salomonsen warned the trio that they could be sent to prison, and added: “You chose to plead not guilty and the jury have returned verdicts based on powerful evidence.”
Terence Maughan was cleared of the same charge after saying he had no role in speaking to any customers and had merely been a passenger in his cousin’s van.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: “This has been a lengthy and complex investigation, involving hard work from our officers and also invaluable assistance from Devon & Cornwall Police.
“These traders were mainly concerned with extracting as much money as they could, and would negotiate pricing based on the perceived vulnerability of their victims.
“I hope this sends a strong message that rogue traders will not be tolerated.”
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