28 August 2015

A rogue trader who preyed on vulnerable residents has been sentenced to 18 months suspended for two years following a prosecution by Northamptonshire County Council’s Trading Standards team.

James Richardson also received a four-month curfew between 9pm and 5am, and was ordered to pay £200 in costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

Richardson, who was a business partner in AJ Builders, had already pleaded guilty to a charge of fraudulent trading during a previous hearing at Northampton Crown Court and was sentenced on Thursday (August 27th).

'Blind eye'

The court heard that Richardson, from Raunds, who ran the business with another builder, Alan Fitzgerald, became aware of dishonest business practices by his business partner but turned a blind eye to them.

In January 2014, Fitzgerald, formerly of Stanwick, was convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading in relation to this business and a previous company he ran on his own and was jailed for six years.

The offences took place over a 12 month period and involved 21 victims across Northamptonshire, plus one in London, resulting in the total loss to victims of over £140,000.

Many of these victims were elderly, including a 93-year-old man who paid £600 to have moss removed from his roof, which the business failed to do. The average age of the victims was 69.

Sentencing Richardson, Recorder Roger Evans said: “The mode of operation was serious and organised criminal fraud and was mean and vicious, targeting consumers in their own homes. This is the worst kind of fraud as far as the consumer is concerned.”

Targeting the elderly

Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth, said: “This is an excellent result for our trading standards team.

“Fitzgerald targeted elderly and vulnerable residents by cold-calling and asking if they wanted any building work done. He would tell them that there were visible defects that needed repair, claiming to offer a discount and even using work done nearby by other companies as examples of the quality of his work.

“Fitzgerald would often get payment in advance and then delay the building work with flimsy excuses, as well as overcharging and intimidating people into paying large amounts of money for the work.

“In some cases, the victims lost their life savings, with one person losing as much as £39,000 to this despicable fraudster.

“Richardson, who was his business partner, became aware of these practices and, in his own words, turned a blind eye.

“I would encourage residents to use only reputable companies for any work they are having done and they can find approved traders through our Buy With Confidence scheme.”

Buy With Confidence

Buy With Confidence is run by Trading Standards and allows residents to find gardeners, plumbers, builders, electricians and many other types of traders who have been individually checked for trustworthiness and compliance with consumer protection laws.

Find out more by visiting www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/approvedtraders.