A boss who defrauded elderly people to fund a lavish lifestyle has been jailed for three years, after a prosecution by trading standards.
Adam Craig Roberts, 34, from Bournemouth pleaded guilty to fraudulently misleading often elderly people across the south of England to encourage them to buy home insulation. He was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday (28 June).
The case was led by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards due to complaints it received about Eco Energy Advice Limited.
Roberts ran Eco Energy Advice Limited despite having already been disqualified from being a company director, and was the main financial beneficiary. The expensive items found in his home during the investigation included an Aston Martin.
Residents in counties including Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Devon were cold-called by sales staff offering a no-obligation visit from a surveyor to look at their existing home insulation. But it was sales staff who actually visited and inspected the properties.
After the inspection, residents were told that their usually adequate insulation was dangerous or out of date and needed replacing. They would then be subjected to heavy handed sales techniques with generous ‘discounts’ promised if they signed up there and then.
Sales staff were heavily incentivised to maximise the price, resulting in some people being charged up to £100 per square meter for replacement insulation– four times more than a reputable company would have charged for the same product. Roberts also forced low prices on the sub-contractors who carried out the work to maximise his profits.
One man from Guildford was 83 when he was visited by an Eco Energy Advice Limited sales representative in July 2015. He was told his fibreglass insulation was an irritant and quoted £10,300 for work which would increase the value and energy rating of his home. In reality, the work was worth less than £5,000 and actually made the insulation worse.
In another example, an 89-year-old woman with memory problems was living alone in West Byfleet when she was visited by a sales representative in August 2015. She paid a deposit of £2,500 towards a quoted £10,000 of works, a reasonable price would have been less than £4,000. As insulation works had already been carried out in her home relatively recently, the contract was cancelled and a refund was given. But it seems she then received another sales visit just one month later and subsequently paid the company £3,000 – the woman couldn’t recall what it was for.
Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience, said: “This is a deserved sentence for Adam Craig Roberts who used money conned from vulnerable people to fund his extravagant life.
“A reputable company will never ask you to agree to works straight away. If you, or anyone you know, has been subjected to heavy handed sales please report them to trading standards so we can investigate and take action.”
For advice from trading standards, visit surreycc.gov.uk/tradingstandards, or call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.