Home improvements fraudster jailed
On the 24th October 2013 at Leeds Crown Court, Robert Cooper, trading as RCA Home Design a kitchen and bathroom design and installation business was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months for fraudulent trading between 2011 to 2013.
He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing on 30th September 2013 to dishonestly receiving money from over 20 consumers in West and South Yorkshire by getting them to hand over deposits ranging from £100 to £2000 for new kitchens and bathroom that he knew he would never deliver.
Robert Cooper posted flyers advertising his business through consumers’ doors, however on occasion he would door knock looking for work. His flyers made claims of “VAT FREE” and “FREE OVEN AND HOB”, and claims that he was member of the Federation of Small Businesses, which often enticed consumers into contacting him for a quote.
Cooper would measure up and discuss requirements with prospective customers, who all described him as a polite gentleman, very chatty and seemingly genuine. Customers would get a return visit where they would be presented with a design plan. It was usually at this point that Cooper would ask them to provide a deposit which was often a third of the purchase price. He was reluctant to give a firm installation date, instead he gave a rough estimate of 6-8 weeks before installation would take place.
It was after this period that his customers discovered that he was difficult to get hold of. They would leave phone messages which would not be returned. When his phones were forensically examined by Trading Standards, customers’ names were stored in the contacts so he was able to screen calls.
When Cooper failed to arrive to begin the installation he would use a range of excuses, usually his workmen were ill, this included broken bones, and a heart bypass or he had been held up on another job.
Despite being arrested on two occasions Cooper continued offending whilst on bail, even after appearing in court he continued his dishonesty by taking further deposits from unsuspecting consumers. During interviews Cooper refused to give any explanation for his actions, instead he invoked his right to silence.
During a search of Coopers home a large quantity of unopened mail was discovered, which included several letters of complaint from consumers, along with letters from Trading Standards. The investigation revealed Cooper to be a man of no financial means who had been using the deposit money to live on.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards Divisional Manager David Lodge stated “The Service are pleased that we have been able to stop the trading practices of Robert Cooper and obtain some justice for his victims. This has been a lengthy ongoing investigation and we hope that today’s sentence will be of some comfort to the complainants who have lost money at the hands of Robert Cooper”.
Councillor Bill Urry, of the Trading Standards Committee, said “‘This is a good result and let this be a warning to traders trying to mislead consumers, West Yorkshire Trading Standards are focussed on tackling such scams and will take legal action against such traders.”
Consumers wanting to report rogue trading to Trading Standards or to obtain advice regarding their contractual rights should call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.
Notes to editor
David Strover, Principal Officer 0113 393 9902
David Lodge, Divisional Manager 0113 393 9704