A ruthless doorstep trader who swindled two Chester residents by grossly overcharging for building work has been jailed for five years.
Christopher Heron, 25, of Cranleigh, Surrey, operating under the name of Everest Maintenance Ltd, took more than £23,000 from his victims as the result of a ‘deliberate, calculated fraud’.
Sentencing at Chester Crown Court, Recorder Judge John Bromley-Davenport told Heron: “You tricked people into believing they needed work doing and you gave yourself legitimacy by registering your company and using the Everest name.
“This was a classic ploy and your culpability is high as you abused the trust of the people you defrauded.”
The company’s ‘cold calling’ activities in Chester, in September 2013, were investigated by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Trading Standards Officers.
They found that Heron had had charged £14,000 to one victim, who lives alone in Upton-by-Chester, for replacing tiles on his garage roof, after first agreeing a price of £6,500.
But when a chartered surveyor carried out an inspection at the request of Trading Standards, he assessed the value of the work carried out at just £2,550 – if scaffolding was used.
The second victim – a pensioner – living in the Sealand Road area paid Heron £9,500 for exterior painting and repairs to pebble dash but the work had been the subject of an initial examination by a chartered surveyor and rated as ‘grossly over-valued’.
As a result of the enquiries in Chester, Kingston upon Thames Trading Standards were notified of a third case involving a 65-years-old man at Chessington who was quoted almost £95,000 for work on his home.
Heron was visited whilst working on the house and told to cease operations and leave the site.
Said the Recorder: “The arrival of Trading Standards Officers stopped one of your victims from paying out a further £ 30,000 and it was only being caught that stopped you.”
When arrested, on December 14, Heron was on licence from Lewes Prison where he had been serving a 20 months prison sentence for two counts of fraud by false representation.
Heron had made substantial cash withdrawals from his bank account used to deposit payments from his victims. A freeze has been place on the account after Trading Standards obtained a Restrain Order in relation to all known assets held.
Head of regulatory services Vanessa Griffiths said: “CWaC Trading Standards aim is to protect our local residents. This result sends out a strong message that this type of crime will not be tolerated within our borough.
“We would advise the public:
- Never agree to work as a result of a cold call.
- Always get quotes from two or three traders and seek recommendations from friends and family
- Remember if you do agree to anything in most circumstances you have a 7 day ‘cooling off’ period.
“For details of local traders visit the Age UK register at the trading standards pages of www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk . To report a cold call or for further advice and assistance ring 08454 04 05 06.”