Wakefield criminals guilty of VAT fraud and scamming elderly victims
Two people were today sentenced by HH Judge Marson QC for their activities whilst operating a West Yorkshire based home improvement business and a mobility aid business Adjust 4 Life Ltd. The companies canvassed their customers by cold calling on the telephone from call centres in the Wakefield area, pressurised people into unnecessary building work and charged extortionate prices for sub-standard jobs.
The case which had been taken 3 years to come to trial, having been frustrated by several lengthy adjournments due to the ill health suffered by one of the original defendants. In June 2015 the prosecution offered no evidence against the defendant in question.
The trial, which followed an investigation by the National Trading Standards Regional Scambuster Team and the West Yorkshire trading standards service was concluded when:
MARC CHARLES JONES (52 yrs) of Goose Hill Cottage, Goose Hill Lane, Normanton, Wakefield, WF6 2JB - trading as Home Improvement Centre and a mobility aids business Adjust 4 Life Ltd who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in June 2015 to :
- 1 count of Fraud by false representation,
- 2 counts of acting as a Company Director whilst disqualified,
- 3 counts of contravening the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 by doing shoddy and overpriced building works and operating an aggressive commercial practice and
- 2 counts of operating without a credit licence whilst arranging finance for one elderly customer of Adjust 4 Life and an equity release for an elderly victim of the Home Improvement Centre.
Marc Jones was sentenced to a total of 3 years imprisonment for fraudulent trading and disqualified from acting as a director for 12 years.
Additionally he was ordered to pay £10,000 compensation to the elderly victim in Huddersfield.
The second defendant, Nathan Jones (23 yrs) of Bridgegate Farm.Shay House, Walton, Wakefield, WF2 6PR had already pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to:-
- 1 count of operating without a consumer credit licence whilst being a director of Adjust 4 Life Ltd.
Nathan Jones was sentenced to undertake 80 hours unpaid community service within the next 12 months and to pay £500 costs.
Although numerous complaints were received about Marc Jones and Nathan Jones trading activities the prosecution chose to example two particularly elderly and vulnerable victims when presenting their evidence:
- A 74 year old man in Huddersfield, was repeatedly contacted by telephone and eventually agreed for someone to call. When the defendant came to see him he eventually gave a price of £4000 for damp proofing a stone terrace house. The victim tried to cancel and agreed a lower price of £2500. In the end he ended up paying £36,000 to the defendant Marc Jones for shoddy and unnecessary work to his cellar, repairs to his roof and a new kitchen. The work was funded by equity release arranged by Marc Jones and by cash. Marc Jones took the elderly victim to the bank to withdraw money on numerous occasions. The victim was persuaded by Jones to borrow £36,500 on Equity Release to pay for the work. The victim now owes £47,000 and suffers sleepless nights worrying about what he did and how his debt is escalating annually.
The surveyor who examined the work deemed it to be not fit for purpose and significantly overcharged by approximately £16,000.
- Another 81 year old lady who lived alone in the Morley area and suffered from Alzheimer’s was persuaded to have work done on a cracked lintel in her house, some pointing and replacement cladding to her garage. Against the express wishes of her daughter Marc Jones took the lady to the bank where she withdrew £1500 for the works, the victim’s daughter had arranged to meet the builder at her mothers home at 5.30pm on that afternoon to ensure the work was ok – he didn’t turn up because he had already been paid.
A chartered architect examined the works and found it to be in the main excessively overcharged and inadequate. Only the work on the lintel was found to be adequate. Following this and other similar incidents the victim has had to give up her home of fifty years and her independence to live in a care home.
In passing sentence HH Judge Marson QC said – The wicked part of this offending was to release equity from the victims home of 40 years , an act which has had a profound impact on the man’s life.
Judge Marson also referred to the fact that Marc Jones had dishonestly charged VAT which he was not entitled to do.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“Doorstep crime continues to blight our communities and leaves many of our most vulnerable citizens scared, scarred and bankrupt. I am pleased to see that these two criminals have been brought to justice and urge people not to respond to cold callers offering work on the doorstep. Our teams are working around the clock to clamp down on doorstep crime – to help our investigations I urge you to call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 if you suspect a doorstep criminal is operating in your neighbourhood.”
David Lodge Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards said "This has been a very long and difficult investigation which yet again demonstrates the value of having the regional Scambuster teams. The individuals involved went to great lengths and used whatever dishonest means they had to in order to defraud their customers, in many cases involving significant amounts of money. This verdict gives a very strong message, conning the public in this manner is simply not acceptable. Anyone who thinks they have been a victim or knows of anyone who has been exploited by a rogue trader should get in contact with Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Helpline. Officers are making ongoing enquiries into the circumstances of the equity release arrangement”
For more information about this case contact the regional Scambusters office on 01904 551565.
For more general enquiries regarding the National Trading Standards Board please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
About the National Trading Standards Board
- The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
- The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
- The National Trading Standards Board funds the Scambuster Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CeNTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)