Two jailed for their part in rogue trader scam

Two men have been jailed by Aylesbury Crown Court for their part in a rogue trader scam involving more than a quarter of a million pounds.

The case followeda two-year investigation by Buckinghamshireand Surrey Trading Standards into roofing work done on two residents’ homes by a series of workmen, who kept on finding more ‘repairs’ needing attention, and kept asking for more money.

And after the residents had paid successive bills, the money was laundered, the court was told.

But when Trading Standards officers commissioned independent surveyors to examine the men’s work, they said it had all been unnecessary, of no merit, and in one case was worth no more than £281.

Billy Hilden, of Croydon, south London, was jailed for three and a half years for his part in a fraud relating to £73,450 in bills for roofing work that didn’t need doing. He denied the charge, but the jury found him guilty.

Mr Hilden also deniedfour charges of laundering £24,600 from one resident: money he banked, withdrew and which then could not be traced. He was found guiltyand given a 12-month concurrent prison sentence

Colin Packham, of Morden, south west London, was jailed for 14 months on six money laundering charges involving the acquisition and disposal of £25,250 from both residents. He denied the charges but the jury found him guilty.

The court, sentencing on Friday June 26, was told the residents, Mr Roger Faulkner, from the Buckingham area, and Mr Brian Hotham, from the Thatcham area, were targeted by a group using a similar style: a cold call andlow building work quote that increased once workmen were in the property. In both cases the work was unnecessary and practically worthless.

Mr Andrew Davies, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The crime committed against both are characterised by similar stories: the use of multiple individuals spinning similar stories designed to worry, confuse and defraud the victims.’

Mr Davies said in total Mr Faulkner had paid out just over£73,000 and Mr Hotham had paid out just over£186,000.

Trading Standards Manager David Pickeringsaid the investigating teams from Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire had been able to account for only part of the overall loss by the two residents, butcould not establish where the rest of the moneyhad gone.

‘This was the first money laundering prosecution for Buckinghamshire,’ said David. ‘It’s only in the past few years that we’ve been able to look in detailinto rogue traders’ bank accounts. We now have the tools to find out where they hide the money and trace back to the source of the fraud.’

Martin Phillips, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, paid tribute to the tenacity of Trading Standards investigators.

‘Their patient and determinedinvestigationdemonstrates we will continue to prosecute these crooks until they realise Buckinghamshire is a no-go area for them,’ he said.

‘Doorstep rogue tradersmay seem plausible, but we all need to bewatchful that we – and our neighbours – aren’t taken for a ride by them.’

The case comes at the beginning of National Scams Months, during which Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards will be raising awareness of doorstep crime.

A third defendant, Michelle Edwards, who lives in Surrey, admitted charges of acquiring and transferring criminal property.

She said she had met a builder, who asked her to put £12,000 from one of the residents through her account as he didn’t have a bank account. She told the court she understood the builder was not planning to declarethe money to HMRC.

She was sentencedon July 1 to four months in jail suspended for two years with a 12-month supervision order.