Rogue trader bullied widow out of £42,000
A rogue trader who helped “bully” a widow out of £42,000, including funds saved for her disabled son, has been ordered to pay a £12,000 penalty.
Brothers-in-law George Knowles and Clayton Penfold drove Anna Holloway to the bank so she could withdraw the cash to pay for work on her Bishopsworth home – deemed by a building surveyor to be unnecessary, unfit and overpriced.
She used various savings accounts to pay the pair, but their scam was uncovered when a suspicious bank worker confronted them and police were alerted, Bristol Crown Court was told.
Knowles, 35, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to fraud by obtaining the £42,000 as well as aggressive commercial practice.
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Penfold, 36, of Hewish, near Weston-super-Mare, pleaded guilty to aggressive commercial practice.
Knowles was jailed for two years by Judge Michael Roach, who told him: “What you did was bullying and thoroughly mean.”
The judge had adjourned sentence on Penfold until yesterday, when he gave him a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Penfold was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £6,000 compensation and £6,000 prosecution costs.
Earlier Alan Fuller, prosecuting, said Penfold, the proprietor of CJP Plastics, based in Heathfield Business Park, Congresbury, and Knowles exploited a vulnerable person.
Mr Fuller said Mrs Holloway was a widow who had a 20-year-old son with a muscle wasting disease and obvious mobility issues.
In 2010 Knowles called at Mrs Holloway’s home, having just been released on licence from jail for fraud by rogue trading.
Mr Fuller said after doing some work on her guttering at a “reasonable” price, Knowles then returned to pressure Mrs Holloway into agreeing to a catalogue of jobs including trimming a hedge and building a garden wall for £2,800, block paving a driveway, laying gravel in the back garden, re-felting the roof and building a new chimney stack.
“She was frightened if she didn’t pay money the defendants would down tools and leave her home with a half-finished job,” said Mr Fuller.
“Things came to a head when Knowles said she had an asbestos problem in her roof and if the gas man knew she and her son would be forced out and made homeless.”
The conmen asked for more cash and in June 2011 drove Mrs Holloway to the bank. But bank worker Jodie Barge became suspicious, confronted Knowles and Penfold outside and they drove off in their van.
Trading Standards staff from Bristol City Council were alerted and the bank intervened to stop the money moving out of her account.
The council said Mrs Holloway had cashed in two ISAs worth approximately £23,000, incurred a £9,000 loan and used up money intended for her son.
A building surveyor found only a small area of roof felt, in an area visible to Mrs Holloway, had been replaced and was leaky; her chimney and new wall were unfit for purpose and a hole had been put through a ceiling. The true value of the “work” was £10,000.
Richard Shepherd, defending Knowles, said he acknowledged the offences were “a matter of greed”.
Mr Shepherd said: “The fault is clearly on the defendants. Mrs Holloway was conned, persuaded and cajoled and these defendants knew what they were doing.”
Irshad Sheikh, defending father-of-three Penfold, said his client’s guilty plea indicated his genuine remorse and he had expressed a desire to make recompense.
He said Penfold would be earning £500 a week from his father, who owns a scrapyard and has a contract with the Ministry of Defence.
Principal Trading Standards Officer for Bristol City Council Mike Reed, who led the investigation, told The Post: “Our advice is never agree to work by doorstep traders, some doorstep sellers are honest but unfortunately there are many rogue traders who target their victims by making uninvited cold calls.
“Never forget it is your doorstep and you have the right to refuse to deal with uninvited traders.”