News item

Notts cowboy traders sentenced for scam targeting the elderly and vulnerable

A Nottinghamshire-based gang that scammed pensioners of sums estimated to run into millions of pounds have been sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday 12 June.

The scam saw gang members ruthlessly deceive older and vulnerable people on their own doorsteps, pressurising them into paying extortionate prices for shoddy and unnecessary building work on their properties. Six members of the group pleaded guilty in January and received the following sentences today:

• Tyrone St John Beard (d.o.b: 17/3/69), once of Marnham Road, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, received six and a half years imprisonment
• Marcus Reading (d.o.b: 15/6/88), once of Marnham Road, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, received four and a half years imprisonment
• Simon Davies (d.o.b: 18/9/90), of Ash Vale, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, received 18 months imprisonment
• Michael Sean Sumner (d.o.b: 6/1/87), of Peel Avenue, Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, received 18 months imprisonment
• Christopher Russell (d.o.b: 7/10/86), of Rowan Drive, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, received 18 months imprisonment
• Mohammed Zulbair Ditta (d.o.b: 24/10/72), of Hawes Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, received three years imprisonment

The case has been led by the National Trading Standards East Midlands Scambusters Team, which collated evidence relating to 97 victims from across the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire to form the case for the prosecution.

It is estimated that the victims involved in this case lost around £228,000, although this figure is likely to be higher as it is recognised that there are many more victims involved.

All of the victims were elderly, frail or vulnerable – in some instances all three – and were preyed upon by the gang to agree to improvements to their driveway or roof coatings. A number of the victims were targeted repeatedly by the gang, who used a variety of company names including Tileshield Coatings Ltd and Nationwide Roof Coatings Ltd.

In most of the cases the work was paid for in full but either not carried out to the agreed specification or not carried out at all. In one of the worst examples of the gang’s work a consumer who was promised that the roof would be as good as new was left with damage to their roof including damage to tiles, felt and rafters.

The rear elevation of the roof had to be later replaced. In another example a consumer had to pay a further £4,250 +VAT to a reputable trader to rectify the damage caused to her roof by the gang.

A Nottinghamshire resident, who does not wished to be identified, used the company to clean her roof and add a protective seal to prevent moss growth. She was shown a video before the work was carried out that indicated plastic sheeting would be used to protect her garden whilst the pressure cleaning took place.

She said: “The salesman who knocked on my door was suited and booted and had an official looking van. We also researched the company’s website and it all looked very reputable but we were very wrong. They did not protect my garden or my neighbour’s and we were both left with horrible black slurry on most of our plants, which killed them.

“We believe we only had one coat of protective paint added to our roof and a lot of that was splattered on our drive and fencing. These were real cowboys and they clearly targeted the old and vulnerable. They are utterly despicable.”

The convictions follow a complex, comprehensive two-year investigation, Operation Summit, by the National Trading Standards East Midlands Scambusters Team, which is hosted by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Safety Committee, said: "This is one of the biggest cases every dealt with by Nottinghamshire County Council on behalf of the National Trading Standards East Midlands Scambuster team and the sheer number of older and vulnerable victims who we have spoken to during this case is utterly shocking.

“A lot of the work that this heartless group carried out was at best shoddy and at worst non-existent, leaving their victims out of pocket and in many cases very upset and distressed, which will have impacted on their health."

“This sentence shows that local authorities and the courts take this type of scam very seriously and we will pursue individuals who relentlessly target older and vulnerable people to make their ill-gotten gains.”

The investigation was originally launched by Lincolnshire County Council’s Trading Standards following complaints from elderly residents in the county that a group of individuals had coerced them to pay for roof and driveway work, which was often unnecessary.

When the scale of the fraud, the geographical area it covered and the number of victims became apparent, it was referred to the National Trading Standards Scambusters unit.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: "I would like to congratulate all of those involved in bringing these criminals to justice and welcome this sentence, which sends a clear signal that doorstep crime and underhand trading will not be tolerated."

“Our Scambusters teams continue to disrupt gangs and crooks who deceive older and vulnerable people on their doorsteps, but many cases go unreported. We urge you to think twice before agreeing to have work done following a knock at the door and, if you do suspect a doorstep trader in your neighbourhood of preying on vulnerable people, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.” 

DATE: 15 June 2015