Posted on: 17 September 2021
A rogue builder from Tiverton has been sentenced to 27 months in prison, the majority of which was for fraudulent trading.
Lee Brent Butler, 40, of Gale Way in Tiverton, pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court to fraudulent trading in a prosecution brought by the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service.
The court heard that Butler, who traded variously as West Build Building Solutions, South West Building Contractors, South Build, and Southwest Builders, left a trail of misery behind him over two years.
He advertised online which lulled prospective customers into a false sense of security as they believed the platforms had completed ‘due diligence’ checks on him.
Working across Devon and Somerset and up to Bristol, Butler took large up-front deposits for building work which was either never started or never finished.
Customers would continue to make payments in desperation, hoping that Butler would complete the work.
He regularly changed business names and used aliases to hide his identity and confuse customers.
On the rare occasions Butler did complete work it was invariably riddled with faults and of such a poor standard that customers often had to get the work re-done by reputable contractors. He had a litany of excuses and failed to accept responsibility for the problems he caused.
Despite receiving extensive advice from Trading Standards Butler failed to amend his trading practices leading to a lengthy investigation.
Steve Gardiner, Legal Process Manager for Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said: “A particular feature of this case was Butler’s use of online platforms to advertise. I’d like to stress that just because a company are advertising online, it doesn’t always mean the platform they’re advertising on has completed any due diligence checks on them.
“Always check the ‘small print’ so you know exactly what checks have been done before they’re allowed to advertise on a website.
“If you’re looking to have work done then Trading Standards always advise you get recommendations from friends and family, trade associations or from the Trading Standards run Buy With Confidence approved trader scheme.”
Butler was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for the Trading Standards offences on Wednesday 16 September.
Six months of a previous suspended sentence for tax fraud was also activated, amounting to the 27-month custodial sentence.