Two conmen have been jailed for a total of nine years after conning 48 victims, including some from Cornwall, out of tens of thousands of pounds.
A third man was given a suspended sentence and ordered to carry out unpaid work.
The trio from Newark, Nottinghamshire, operated across the country, including in Cornwall, and were arrested in Ripon by North Yorkshire Police after a resident became suspicious about the men’s claims and quality of work.
At York Crown Court on Thursday 30 January, William King, 35, of Sandhill Sconce, Tolney Lane, Newark was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment having previously pleaded guilty to charges of fraud by false representation and conspiracy to defraud.
Gavin James Findley, 30, of Elizabeth Road, Newark was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after previously pleading guilty to charges of fraud by false representation and conspiracy to defraud.
Twenty-year-old Todd Berridge now of Marshland Drive, Holbeach, Spalding, Lincolnshire (previously of Tonley Lane, Newark) was given 12 months’ detention, suspended for 24 months and ordered to carried out 180 hours of unpaid work. He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of aiding and abetting King and Findley.
The gang traded under the name of Quality Park Homes and Modern Park Homes and targeted elderly people living in park mobile home sites claiming that work needed to be carried out to their homes.
They then went on to charge excessive amounts for this work which was of poor quality or incomplete. The conmen took in total around £100,000 from their unsuspecting and trusting victims.
Between March and April 2013, Cornwall Trading Standards Fair Trading Team, supported by the Southwest Scambuster Team, investigated 13 separate complaints from residents of park homes across Cornwall in respect of poor quality and incomplete roofing and insulation work for which the gang were paid in excess of £38,000.
Cornwall Trading Standards visited all of those properties scammed by the gang, taking witness statements and arranging for property surveys of those worst affected. In one particular case in Newquay, the resident paid £7,000 in cash and the gang removed all of the fascias and guttering, leaving the property’s roof with little protection against the wind and rain at a time when the weather had been at its worst, and then did not return.
Cornwall Trading Standards officer Gary Webster said: “In some cases the gang would fit a small section of insulation to the underside of the park home, just enough to be visible from the inspection hatch, but leaving the rest of the floor area untouched. If residents agreed to new guttering or fascias they would invariably come straight over to the property and remove the existing fittings to ensure that the person did not change their mind.
There were also cases where the gang pretended that further work was necessary to repair rotten beams or floor joists, and encourage the householder to pay more money for the bogus repairs.”
As a result of intelligence sharing with other Trading Standards teams, the offenders were linked to a raft of similar crimes which had occurred across the UK, including Devon, North Yorkshire, Humberside, Derbyshire, Warrington, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, and Nottinghamshire.
The evidence gathered by Cornwall Trading Standards was passed to Devon & Cornwall Police and subsequently North Yorkshire Police, who then co-ordinated the case against the gang.
Gary went on to say “The gang were specifically targeting park home sites, sometimes pretending that they had received permission from the site owner. They appeared very friendly and convincing when selling their services, using professionally printed flyers and sign-written vehicles. Usually the victims were older persons who had put their trust in these men, due to having seen them working on other properties on the park.
As always, our advice to consumers is to never agree to purchase goods or services offered by cold callers, no matter how convincing they may appear. If you do agree to works at your own home, then you should be provided with a notice, giving you 7 days to cancel the contract, prior to the work commencing. Failing to provide such a notice is a criminal offence.”
Cornwall Council Cabinet member for homes and communities Geoff Brown said: “This multi agency operation has worked effectively to bring this gang to justice and I am proud of the contribution made by our Cornwall Trading Standards team.”