21/10/2011 - Permalink

Jail for rogue trader after council investigation

Related topics: Community

A rogue trader who preyed on elderly residents was today (Friday 21 October 2011) jailed for two-and-a-half years after a Shropshire Council trading standards investigation.

William Varey, 32, of Church Street, Ightfield, near Whitchurch, was sentenced today at Shrewsbury Crown Court.  Judge Robin Onions praised the “rapid prosecution by trading standards”.

At an earlier hearing at Shrewsbury Crown Court, Varey pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and three of misleading commercial practices.

The court today heard that Varey carried out work on older people’s homes that, in most cases, was not needed, was of poor quality, and charged excessive amounts for the work.

Mr Tony Watkin, prosecuting on behalf of Shropshire Council, told the court that Varey cold-called at three neighbouring houses in Market Drayton in October and November 2010.

Without informing them of their cancellation rights, he persuaded the elderly householders, including an 83-year-old man with disabilities, to enter into contracts for small pieces of work such as pressure-washing a roof, but then invented other work he claimed was required.

In total Varey attempted to charge almost £15,000 for the work at the three houses. Varey took payment for almost £7,000 before trading standards officers and police stepped in and ensured the remaining amount was not paid.

At court, Mr Watkin shared the findings of an independent expert who concluded that the true cost of the work was a fraction of the amount charged.

Varey also told one customer that he had contacted their insurance company and the cost would be met under the household insurance policy, when this was not the case.

Judge Onions described Varey as a “menace” and said it was a “nightmare” for relatives of elderly people worried about whether conmen would knock at their loved one’s door.

He said Varey was “not much better than a distraction burglar” and it was not an accident that the victims were elderly as such fraudsters “prey on the elderly and vulnerable”.

He added:

“People at that age should be entitled to live out their life in peace without dreading the knock on the door, the conman coming to take their money.”

Mr Simon Phillips, defending, said:

“He knows he’s got to try and turn his life around.”

The court also heard about previous similar offences, and these were taken into account in sentencing.

Councillor Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for trading standards, said:

“This is an excellent result for Shropshire Council and illustrates the valuable work our trading standards team provides in protecting the people of Shropshire.

“This case sends a clear warning that Shropshire Council will not hesitate to take legal action against tradespeople who try to defraud residents.

“We are continually striving to protect the interests of local consumers, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable or who rely on the expertise and knowledge of the tradesmen they employ.

“Today’s case is also timely as it is currently National Rogue Traders Week, which raises awareness of what people can do to avoid falling victim to fraudsters.

“We would advise people to never agree to work being done by anyone knocking on your door.  Always turn them away and get several quotes from reputable traders before having work carried out.”

Shropshire’s senior detective said today’s case highlighted the dangers posed by rogue traders and doorstep criminals.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said the prosecution arose out of good partnership working between Shropshire trading standards and the police.

“Tackling these type of people is a priority for both organisations and we will continue to work together to identify offenders and to put them before the courts.”

He said:

“Rogue traders prey on the most vulnerable in society, conning them out of large sums of money – sometimes their life-savings. Furthermore, the work is usually minimal, over-priced and often totally unnecessary in the first place.

“Such people are a scourge. They are unscrupulous and seek to take advantage of vulnerable people, especially the elderly.”

DCI Edwards added:

“The golden rule is never to accept offers of work on the home or garden by strangers knocking on your door. Contact a local tradesperson and ask for a quote – that way you know you are getting a fair price from a genuine person.

“Also, if you are suspicious or worried, don’t hesitate to contact the Police on 0300 333 3000.”

Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council operate a Trader Register Scheme for the benefit of both consumers and businesses across the county. Businesses registered with the scheme have all demonstrated their commitment to fair and honest trading practices and delivering good customer service. The register is available online at https://www.traderregister.org.uk

During National Rogue Traders Week trading standards officers have been working throughout the county with the police to carry out checks and speak to members of the public about how they can find a trader they can rely on.

For further advice go to shropshire.gov.uk/tradingstandards.nsf or call Trading Standards on 0345 678 9000.