Rogue builder jailed after ignoring court order and targeting elderly
A 79-year-old rogue builder has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for breaching a court order preventing him from cold calling and carrying out building work.
Joining Thomas Gumble behind bars will be his grandson, also named Thomas Gumble, who aided Gumble senior by clearing payment cheques through his bank account so that they wouldn’t show in his granddad’s figures.
Gumble senior, of Strathdon Drive, Tooting, was spared jail in February 2015 when, trading as TG Gardening, he admitted a series of fraud offences relating to the door-stepping of elderly victims in the Norbury and Thornton Heath areas. Over the course of a number of years, he had duped elderly householders into handing over thousands of pounds.
He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, and given a criminal behaviour order (CBO), preventing him from cold-calling or carrying out any unsolicited building work anywhere in England or Wales.
This was the first time a criminal behaviour order had been granted in London specifically for a trading standards prosecution.
On 27 November, Croydon Crown Court was told that, within months of the 2015 CBO being imposed, he cold called an elderly female resident, asking if she had any gardening work that needed doing. Over subsequent months he carried out a range of jobs, including a number when she later moved to a new address.
She paid more than £21,000 – mostly by cheques – to have rubbish and building waste cleared from her front and back gardens, shrubs cut back, turf laid, brickwork patched up, and fencing repaired.
In summer 2016, when she told her family how much she had paid Gumble for work at her new address, it was reported to the police, who took a statement and contacted the council’s trading standards department to conduct a joint investigation.
The cheques, which had been made out to Thomas Gumble, were found to have been paid into the account of a different Thomas Gumble, aged 30, who also lived in Strathdon Road, Tooting.
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “Once again, praise is due to our trading standards officers and the police for successfully prosecuting this case.
“Having previously admitted preying on some of our borough’s most vulnerable residents, and being given a criminal behaviour order for his crimes, he immediately went out and carried on as if nothing had happened.
“Then, in an attempt to avoid being found out, he convinced his grandson – who shares his name – to pass the cheques through his, Gumble junior’s, bank account.
“These were despicable and callous crimes which the judge has, quite rightly, viewed extremely seriously and dealt with in what many would feel was a completely appropriate manner.
“I’d like to remind residents to always get a recommendation from a trusted source, such as www.trustmark.org, when looking for reputable traders. Equally, I’d appeal to people to look out for their elderly relatives or neighbours to protect them from rogue traders.”