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Consumer news, Trading Standards prosecutions

Rogue handyman admits defrauding elderly lady over ‘years’


Posted on: 19 September 2019

A rogue handyman has pleaded guilty to fraud after charging a vulnerable pensioner £100,000 for gardening and maintenance work.

At Taunton Crown Court on Monday 16 September, Thomas Samuel Godfrey, 48 of Ford House Road, Newent, Gloucestershire, admitted to defrauding an 82-year-old lady over a nine-year period.

The court heard that Godfrey was employed by the lady who lived alone in a large old property in the Ilminster area of Somerset.

At the time of the offending, Godfrey lived in Swindon, nearly a two-hour drive away from Ilminster.
Despite the distance Godfrey offered to carry out work in the victim’s garden in 2008.

With a polite manner, he would always seem to find more work to carry out, and the type of work soon expanded to include property maintenance and improvement.

In 2009 the victim wrote to the defendant saying that she believed he had overcharged her, and he stopped visiting.

However after a gap of a couple of years Godfrey turned up unannounced and started doing jobs again, presenting her with a bill at the end.

Even when he moved further away, to Gloucestershire, he continued to travel to work on her property – including significant travel expenses in his prices.

By 2017 the victim was transferring money from her savings to her current account in order to pay Godfrey.

Her bank questioned why she was transferring so much money, and advised her to contact Trading Standards.

An investigation by Devon, Somerset & Torbay Trading Standards Service uncovered invoices from Godfrey totalling over £100,000.

These payments were not for major building works but for gardening and the maintenance of outbuildings.

The work was assessed by a Chartered Surveyor and an Arboricultural Consultant. They concluded that the work carried out was not done so by a highly skilled individual who could charge the top rates and that the value of the work fell far short of £100,000.

Godfrey initially denied that he had acted dishonestly, but on the first day of a scheduled four-day Crown Court trial he pleaded guilty, admitting that he had overcharged the victim £35,000.

Godfrey will be sentenced on 16 October 2019 at Taunton Crown Court. Recorder Howard Palmer QC advised Godfrey that all sentencing options were available.

Stephen Gardiner, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service’s Legal Process Manager, said: “This case shows that Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service will not tolerate traders taking advantage of consumers, particularly those that are vulnerable.

“Consumers who are looking for traders to do work for them are advised to use traders that are trader approved, such as those signed up to Buy With Confidence. If this is not possible, consideration should be given to obtaining three quotes from reputable traders.”


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