12 October 2015

A fraudster who tricked schools, health centres, community centres and churches into paying for unnecessary highways work has been jailed for 16 months.

Leslie Smith would cold call on victims, claiming he was working on behalf of the local authority’s highways team on roads nearby and had paint leftover.

Leslie Smith and his vehicle

Inflated costs

Smith would offer a price to mark out white lines in car parks, often claiming there was a legal requirement for this work to be done. The work was usually of poor quality and the costs often hugely inflated. Some victims refused to pay, but others handed over between £400 to over £1,000.

Among the 30 victims was St Edward’s Church in Kettering, which Leslie attempted to charge £4,980 for some line painting in its car park.

Smith, of Minsterworth, Gloucestershire, was convicted of fraudulent trading and sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on September 30th after a lengthy investigation led by Trading Standards South West.

Sentencing, Judge Cotter said: “This was an ongoing operation for over four-and-a-half years showing deep-seated and pervasive dishonesty.

“You preyed on the good nature of religious organisations, schools and doctors surgeries and the effect on the community is obvious.”

Bogus companies

Smith conned his victims out of more than £57,000 using bogus trading names including Ringwood Traffic Management and Traffic Management Solutions.

His offences spanned the country, including Cheshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Essex, Humberside, Kent and Bedfordshire.

Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said: “Unfortunately there are many rogue traders out there operating in a similar way to Leslie Smith and we would encourage anyone who may have been approached by a fraudulent company to report it to us by calling Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

“Anyone who is thinking of having work carried out at their home or business can find a Trading Standards-approved trader through our Buy With Confidence scheme at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/approvedtraders."