A man who worked on a range of home and garden maintenance jobs at homes in Ferndown and Christchurch as well as Hampshire, Wiltshire and Devon has been jailed for participating in a fraudulent business. A second man who was found to have laundered money for the business was also given a prison sentence.
On 22 March, at Bournemouth Crown Court, Thomas Edward Turner, 41, of Oaktree Farm Caravan site, Odstock Road, Salisbury, was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment, having pleaded guilty on 8 January, to an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. He admitted that between 1 August 2017 and 8 September 2018 he knowingly participated in a fraudulent business known as ‘All Seasons’ that provided services at grossly inflated prices. The case was brought by Dorset Council, Trading Standards.
Fraudulent behaviour was identified at eight properties where he had worked, carrying out a mix of roofing, guttering, driveway and path repairs, moss removal, jet washing and garden work. A catalogue of excessive charging, unnecessary work and charging for work not done was revealed when these cases were investigated by trading standards officers.
The court heard that Turner would approach elderly and often vulnerable victims and frighten them into believing that their roofs had serious problems which required immediate attention. Two of the victims were in the later stages of dementia and one was registered blind.
His men would start work immediately and undertake unnecessary and sub-standard work at grossly inflated prices. The victims paid in advance for the work by cash or bank transfer. In August 2018 police arrested Turner at a victim’s house in Andover, and trading standards officers in Dorset became involved due to other complaints. Subsequent investigation of Turner’s bank accounts led to the details of seven other victims being traced and together they were found to have lost over £100,000 between them. Turner later admitted to a total of £70,000.
In one incident Turner told a resident in Hampshire that the whole roof needed replacing, the chimney was in a dangerous condition and his battens were fastened with string. A chartered surveyor who later examined the property after the work had been done stated that it was all unnecessary and had a value of, at most, £2,500. The victim paid £43,000.
Turner pleaded guilty on the basis that he was not the one in charge and claimed he was acting ‘under a degree of duress and threats’ from two brothers, who he was unable to identify and officers could find no evidence of.
As part of this case, Aaron Eli Brown, 22, of Frome, Somerset was also sentenced at Bournemouth Crown Court on 22 March for two offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. He was found guilty on 8 January, after a trial, of withdrawing funds from a bank account which had been obtained as a result of fraudulent maintenance work at two properties in Ferndown and Devizes. Brown was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment.
In Brown’s case, in sentencing, HHJ Climie also pointed out that the defendant was previously of good character and relatively youthful but remarked that taking the matter to trial showed a total lack of remorse and an attempt to evade his responsibility.
Cllr Jill Haynes, portfolio holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory Services at Dorset Council said, “This is a significant case affecting vulnerable consumers in several counties. Our Trading Standards team will continue to give a high priority to tackling instances of unfair and fraudulent trading like this, especially where the victims are more vulnerable. Anyone trading in this manner can expect formal enforcement action to be taken against them.”
To report concerns about rogue traders in your area the first point of contact is the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
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