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Consumer news, Trading Standards prosecutions

Rogue handyman who defrauded pensioner given two year suspended sentence and told to pay over £13,000

Posted on: 16 October 2019

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

At Taunton Crown Court on Wednesday 16 October, Thomas Samuel Godfrey, 49, of Ford House Road, Newent, Gloucestershire, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, and 250 hours community service.

He was ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge and had a curfew order applied for six months. He will also have to pay prosecution costs of £12, 924.20.

At a previous hearing he had 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 charmed the victim and 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 works carried out were 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 in September, on the first day of a scheduled four-day Crown Court trial he pleaded guilty, admitting that he had overcharged the victim £35,000. In sentencing him Judge David Ticehurst commented that Godfrey had clearly seen the victim as “a suitable target” whom he could swindle and defraud. Following the plea Godfrey repaid the £35,000 via Trading Standards.

Stephen Gardiner, Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service’s Legal Process Manager said:

“Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards would like to thank the victim in this case for having the courage to be willing to give evidence, without the strength of will of witnesses like her we would not be able to bring offenders like Mr Godfrey to justice.

“Banks who flag up unusual withdrawals to their customers can also play a role and the Nat West in Illminster are to be applauded for highlighting these transactions to the victim. Since 2017 most banks have signed up to the Banking Protocol, which enables bank branch staff to contact police if they suspect a customer is in the process of being scammed, with an immediate priority response to the branch. This case shows awareness of this type of targeting of the elderly is getting better.

“We recommend consumers use reputable traders such as members of Buy With Confidence who are audited by Trading Standards.”