Rogue traders sent to prison for defrauding an elderly Atherstone widow

A salesman and two insulation fitters who took advantage of an elderly Atherstone resident by charging her for work that was overpriced, unnecessary and in some cases not carried out, have been successfully prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service.

Over a three and a half month period the elderly Atherstone resident was systematically defrauded out of £45,399.

At Coventry Crown Court on Thursday 26th January 2017, salesman Andrew Riley was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment and insulation fitter Steven Downey three years imprisonment., both sentences to begin immediately. Craig Downey was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

Prosecuting for Warwickshire Trading Standards, Ben Mills of St Philips Chambers told the Court that the elderly homeowner was first contacted by Andrew Riley, a foam insulation salesman working for Thermacoat Ltd. Riley had sold the lady other products in the past, so she recognised him when he visited her offering loft insulation. Having measured up, he overestimated the amount of foam insulation that would be required and then charged her a grossly excessive price of £97 per square metre.

Riley who was on a commission only salary, quoted over £14,000 for work that should have cost no more than £6,000 to boost his sales income. To make matters worse, this additional insulation (see photograph 1) provided no financial benefit as the homeowner’s existing loft insulation already met current standards.

Thermacoat Ltd employed father and son team Steven and Craig Downey, who traded under the name of Ecoseal Installation Services UK, to carry out the work.

The Downeys built up a relationship with the homeowner so that she trusted their guidance as to the necessity and price of work they recommended. After installing the £14,099 spray foam insulation, they claimed that existing insulation in her loft had ‘gone off’ and needed replacing. This was not true, but they charged her a further £12,000. The Downeys then charged her £11,000 for cavity wall insulation. This wasn’t necessary and couldn’t possibly have been carried out because the cavity walls had already been filled with insulation material some years earlier.

The Downeys went on to claim that other work would be needed including ridge tile and chimney re-pointing and roof painting. This work, for which they charged her £8,300, was overpriced, not needed and carried out to a very poor standard.

Warwickshire Trading Standards were alerted to the plight of the victim after the Downeys caused a gas leak whilst ‘working’ at the property and had to call in a plumber to repair the damage. Plumber Suresh Jhamat was concerned that the Downeys were not using basic safety equipment and that the work they were doing was unnecessary and overpriced. In recognition of his public spirited intervention the Court awarded £500 to Mr Jhamat, who trades as Tees & Joints, Wolverhampton.

Warwickshire County Councillor John Horner, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said:

“We all know that devastating impact rogue traders can have upon the lives of their victims. I am delighted that Warwickshire Trading Standards are protecting vulnerable members of our community by investigating these terrible cases and bringing successful prosecutions.”

Warwickshire County Councillor Philip Johnson, Chair of the council’s Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee added:

“Our Trading Standards Service is working hard to protect vulnerable residents from rogue traders by raising awareness of their activities, supporting people when rogue traders arrive on their doorstep and investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.”

At Coventry Crown Court on Thursday 26th January 2017, Andrew Riley (aged 54 of Turnberry Avenue Kirkby in Ashfield Nottinghamshire) was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, having been found guilty of two fraud offences after a trial in October.

Steven Downey (aged 59 of 9 Heather Close, East Sussex, BN23 8DF) was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment having pleaded guilty to five fraud offences at an earlier hearing.

Craig Steven Downey (aged 34 of 9 Heather Close, East Sussex, BN23 8DF) was sentenced to 18 months, suspended for 2 years, and 150 hours unpaid work, having pleaded guilty to 3 fraud offences at an earlier hearing.

Report rogue traders to Warwickshire Trading Standards on 03454 040506.

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