Rogue traders sentenced after targeting Devon’s vulnerable
Posted on: 5 February 2016
Three men found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the vulnerable and elderly for shoddy and unnecessary home repair work, were sentenced at Exeter Crown Court in a case brought by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service .
Thomas Maughan, 27, and Thomas Mahon, 46, were each sent to prison for 12 months for their part in the fraud.
Both had pleaded not guilty but were convicted after an eight day trial.
The judge said these two were ‘the heart of the conspiracy’ and their behaviour was ‘wholly unacceptable’ and warranted immediate custody.
They will serve six months in prison and the remainder on licence.
A third man, Mathew Latham 35, who had previously pleaded guilty to the same offence, was sentenced to five months in prison, suspended for 12 months as well as 150 hours Community Service
Judge Erik Salomonsen, said the gang’s approach was marked by their willingness to be belligerent, and extricating cash from elderly, vulnerable, and lone female victims, escorting and surveying customers while they withdrew money from cashpoints to pay them.
Further aggravating features was their failure to respond to warnings by Trading Standards Officers and wrongly placing the blame on others.
The court had 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 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.
A fourth man 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.
Cllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said:
“They preyed on the elderly and vulnerable.
“The Buy With Confidence scheme, which Devon and Somerset Trading Standards help to run, is a good way to find honest and reliable local traders.
“This has been a complex investigation, involving hard work from our officers and also invaluable assistance from Devon & Cornwall Police.”
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said:
“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 in Devon & Somerset.”
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