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Trading Standards investigation leads to three year sentence for fraudsters

A fraudster and his accomplice have both received prison sentences after being found guilty of scamming residents as unqualified roofers, following a Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards investigation.

James Smith (28, Cranleigh, Surrey) and Timothy Draper Smith (52, Staines) were trading as James Gutters and Roofing Ltd between August 2017 and February 2019. Over this period the company cold-called at five different premises, offering to clean their gutters. The owners of each property were deliberately targeted due to being elderly and vulnerable.

Once at the properties, the duo would use a series of unlawful and coercive sales techniques to convince the vulnerable householders to agree to have works carried out. These included causing a need for repair works to be carried out, and starting work before an agreement had been reached, in order to create a sense of obligation to have the works carried out. They would then dramatically overcharge for the works.

The total value of the fraud they committed was valued at £178,000, which has been paid back to the victims as compensation. Two of the victims were Surrey residents.

Smith received a sentence of 36 months, whilst Draper-Smith received 31 months.

At the sentencing on Tuesday 20 January, His Honour Judge Sheridan thanked the Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards for the way they went about this investigation, saying: “I am quite certain that the victims will find themselves indebted to them and to the prosecution in this matter.”

Denise Turner Stewart, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “To deliberately target vulnerable residents in this way and scam them out of thousands of pounds is despicable and totally unacceptable.

“We are pleased both Mr Smith and Mr Draper-Smith have got the punishment they deserve, and we are very grateful to our Trading Standards officers for their extremely thorough work on this investigation.

“The work being undertaken to stop these bogus traders is a serious priority for the county council and we are determined to bring these perpetrators to justice. People like this need to be stopped and the best way we can do this is by educating ourselves and our loved ones on how to avoid becoming a victim.

“Residents can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are employing a reputable, Trading Standards approved trader by visiting www.traders4u.co.uk. Our Trading Standards Officers are working really hard to ensure we have a variety of trades are on Traders4U so that we can keep the residents of Surrey safe.”

Find out more about scams and how to prevent them by visiting www.surreycc.gov.uk/business-and-consumers/trading-standards.

Find a trusted trader by visiting our Trading Standards approved website www.traders4u.co.uk. Advice to avoid getting tricked out of your money is:

• Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to shut the door.
• Take your time, don’t be rushed or confused by technical jargon.
• Know who you’re dealing with, if you need help talk to someone you know or get in touch with your local council.
• Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know.
• Never engage with someone or allow them access to your home unless you can verify their authenticity and who they are.

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