News item

DNA traps rogue tree surgeon

A rogue tree surgeon who was caught after his DNA was found at the scene of one of his victim’s premises has been fined £1,500 by Bromley magistrates and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

In October 2011 Peter Edward Varey, 27, from Basildon in Essex, was trading as Eltham Tree Services. He had been called by a 90-year-old man in Orpington and asked to cut back five trees.

He quoted £425 and started the work immediately. After three-quarters of an hour Varey said he had finished and had in fact cut back a further 10 trees and bushes and wanted £1,950 but would discount the price to £1900. The victim, who lived with his 80-year-old wife, had not asked for the extra work and felt it was not necessary.

Varey asked the consumer to go to the bank and get the money. The elderly couple felt bullied by Varey and were fortunate that their neighbour heard what was going on and called police and trading standards.

The trader had left when trading standards officers arrived, having been paid nothing by the consumer, but forensic officers captured DNA samples at the scene and these were matched to Varey.

A second complaint to trading standards was received in November 2011 by another Orpington resident who had contacted a company called Farringtons to carry out tree work.

Varey arrived and quoted £3,800 for work which was later valued at £100. The consumer agreed to the quote thinking it was the going rate and went to the bank to withdraw the cash, however she returned an hour and a half later with no cash and the trader agreed to return a few days later.

Again, a neighbour of the victim found out what had happened and informed the local police who alerted trading standards.

Varey was later arrested by Surrey Police and interviewed by trading standards officers at Staines Police Station.

In mitigation, Varey admitted his actions were unacceptable and said he had been greedy, but that he had since turned a new corner and was now attending a training course on tree felling. He had been terrified of being sent to jail and apologised to the court for his actions, promising not to behave in this way again.

Varey pleaded guilty to three charges under regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 for falsely claiming he was working for Farringtons, unfair excessive charges, and carrying out work he was not asked to do resulting in an inflated price.

Councillor Tim Stevens, Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and Safety said: “This is a good example of how trading standards are helping to protect our elderly and vulnerable residents from such rogue traders who seek to defraud customers by over charging for substandard work in many cases.

"My priority to raise awareness of these issues means that more and more people in the borough are becoming aware of these sharp practices so that together we can help put a stop to them.”


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