General, HP, Supporting our vulnerable adults, Trading Standards

Jail sentence for rogue trader who conned £10,000 out of elderly former teacher and volunteer

A Surrey rogue trader who charged an elderly former victim support worker nearly £10,000 for botched work on her garage roof has been jailed for three years and three months.

Walter Smith, of Park Lane East, Reigate, applied water-based paint to his victim’s roof over the top of twigs and moss after carelessly filling gaps with expanding foam.

He demanded £9,550 from the 83-year-old woman in a series of cash payments, on one occasion insisting she meet him at Reigate train station to hand over £4,700.

Smith, 23, who used the alias James Andrews, was brought to justice following an investigation by Surrey County Council’s trading standards officers.

The crime caused severe distress to his retired school teacher victim – who had also been a volunteer for the Victim Support service – and she passed away shortly after reporting the fraud to trading standards.

Smith pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in relation to the offence and also to a further six counts of fraud by false representation relating to offences committed in Berkshire. For some of the Berkshire offences, he was convicted along co-defendants.

At Reading Crown Court on 27 April, Smith was sentenced to three years and three months imprisonment and ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge, having been prosecuted by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards* for the Surrey offence and by the Crown Prosecution Service for the others.

The trading standards investigation found that Smith cold-called at the home of his Reigate victim in January 2014 and offered to prune a tree in her garden which overhung her neighbour’s property.

She paid Smith £650 for this work and he then persuaded her to allow him to repair the roof of her garage, which was leaking.

Smith and his accomplices carelessly sprayed expanding foam into some of the gaps between the roof and the wall of the garage and then painted the garage roof with white water-based emulsion.

The victim was charged £9,550 in instalments for the shoddy work with Smith’s demands for money becoming increasingly threatening. She was told the payments had to be made in cash and would only be taken when she was alone.

Smith has said he was acting as part of a group.

Richard Walsh, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Localities and Community Wellbeing, said: ‘Rogue traders who charge exorbitant sums for poor quality work often target elderly or vulnerable residents and we’re committed to doing everything we can to track them down and bring them to justice.’

* Buckinghamshire and Surrey operate a joint trading standards service

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