Posted on: 20 March 2019
A rogue builder has been jailed for three years and ten months (Monday March 18) for defrauding his victims.
At Exeter Crown Court Lee Antony Butterworth, 47, of Oxlea Close, Torquay, was sentenced following a prosecution by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service.
Trading standards investigated Butterworth after victims in Brixton, Plymouth and Yettington complained about his shoddy and late work.
Butterworth also deliberately kept his identity from customers and introduced himself as ‘Lee Anthony.’
This, said Judge Rose, were ‘deliberate actions’ designed to prevent his identity as a convicted fraudster being revealed.
In May 2016 Butterworth had received a two-year suspended sentence for fraud, failing to complete building contracts, poor work and fraudulently claiming he was paying VAT.
And in 2017 he was imprisoned for six months for Contempt of Court in relation to a financial investigation resulting from the case.
Aware that an internet search by potential customers might reveal his criminal past, he set out to mislead his customers.
The court heard that the customers who employed him soon found that there were problems with work being completed on time or to a suitable standard.
One couple found that extension work to their house fell foul of planning controls, despite Butterworth’s assurances to the contrary.
Butterworth, who traded under “Heritage Trades”, also featured photographs of previous work on his website, which he had marked as ‘successful and satisfactory’ builds.
In truth at least one of the customers they related to was anything but satisfied and had provided evidence to trading standards.
Judge Rose sentenced Butterworth to 30 months imprisonment for three fraud offences and 12 months on a fourth charge, to run concurrently.
He also activated 16 months of the suspended sentence to run consecutively, making 46 months in total.
A further financial investigation into his assets was ordered, which may allow for compensation to be paid.
Judge Rose said: “You were seeking business on a fraudulent basis. You then set out woefully underperforming and by your pleas you have accepted that you always intended to do so.”
Stephen Gardiner, Legal Process Manager, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service, said: “This case does show the importance of taking care when employing builders. We recommend that you seek a range of quotes and check out testimonials and trade memberships. Trading Standards have their own trader approval scheme Buy With Confidence www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk and we audit the traders who are members to ensure they comply with consumer law.”
Advice can be obtained from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454040506 or www.citizensadvice.org.uk