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Incomplete work of one of the houses

Cowboy builders jailed for bullying and ripping off vulnerable customers

Four rogue builders from Newcastle-under-Lyme who took advantage of their customers have been jailed.

The court was told how the group overcharged for home improvements, left shoddy work behind and in most cases didn’t finish the job. They would also demand money upfront and then ask for extra payments, but when customers objected they were bullied and threatened and given a range of excuses.

Three of the defendants – Robert Johnson, Richard Blundred and Kristoffer Henshall – admitted to offences of fraudulent trading.

Robert Johnson, aged 33, from Denbigh Close, Clayton, and Blundred, also aged 33, from Bedford Crescent, Clayton, admitted to misleading customers when they carried out work for JB Home Improvements Limited. They were sentenced to 43 months imprisonment and 42 months imprisonment respectively and both disqualified from being a director for eight years.

31-year-old Henshall, from Melville Court, Clayton, also admitted to offences relating to fraudulent trading and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for four years.

A fourth defendant – 67-year-old Ronald Johnson, of Denbigh Close, Clayton – admitted engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action and engaging in a commercial practice which was aggressive. He was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment.

The sentencing follows a 18 month long investigation by Staffordshire County Council’s Trading Standards team.

Gill Heath, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council, said:

“What these men did was truly wicked, praying on the most vulnerable in our communities.

“Not only did they mislead customers about the work they promised to do but when they were questioned about the work, they tried to bully their way out of it.

“The sentences today reflect the dim view the courts take over such dreadful trading practices.

“Our Trading Standards team work hard to protect local communities and will always take action against any traders or businesses who behave inappropriately.”

The group left customers, many of them vulnerable and elderly, £114,000 out of pocket.

Victims included a former serviceman from Stoke-on-Trent who wanted his home adapted and a married couple dealing with a serious illness and disability.

Passing sentence Judge Jonathon Carl Salmon said:

“The victims were people of modest means, many of whom were vulnerable and the company was never run properly.

“The defendants profited from money taken from many vulnerable customers who were ‘fobbed off by a litany of lame excuses’ and caused ‘stress of the highest kind’.”

The group were sentenced on Thursday 26 September at Stafford Crown Court

Anyone with concerns about rogue traders should call Staffordshire County Council on 0300 111 8000.