A rogue trader who preyed on vulnerable older residents in Buckinghamshire has been given a 30 month prison sentence after conning his victims out of more than £93,500.
Thomas Patrick Sweeney, a 43 year old from Marsh Lane in Bishopstone, pleaded guilty to home improvement fraud at Aylesbury Crown Court on Tuesday 21st March 2023. The Judge observed that the unnecessary work was not only overcharged, but the work done was ‘abysmal’ and priced extortionately.
During the sentencing hearing, the court heard how Sweeney, who initially cold called at his victims property, conned them out of large amounts of money by targeting them and making them believe – wrongly – that they needed extensive roof and chimney improvement works to their High Wycombe home.
The defendant was sentenced for fraud, including by grossly overcharging for work.
In total, the victims paid a total of £93,500 in cheque payments towards the amounts sought by the defendant, which totalled £110,600.
Following a complaint by the victims family, the case against Sweeney was brought by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards, in relation to the company, TPS Property Care Ltd of Aylesbury. The defendant being the sole director and shareholder of the company. Sweeney had direct contact with the victims in discussing the works and payments.
An expert was instructed by Trading Standards to inspect the works at the property. They confirmed that whilst there was a need for some repairs to the property, there were many other works that were unnecessary and other works that hadn’t even been completed. The expert considered the standard of work abysmal and to such an extremely poor standard that extensive repairs are now required to rectify this.
The victims have reported ‘severe stress and worry‘ caused by the on-going problems with leaks and the cost of remedial work. They also reported ‘considerable worry and annoyance caused by work not being done correctly and the further financial expense to put it right‘.
Mark Winn, Cabinet Member for Homelessness and Regulatory Services, at Buckinghamshire Council said: ‘This is a shocking case, with vulnerable, elderly residents ruthlessly targeted as easy prey by this fraudster. It’s not a case of a genuine builder making a few mistakes, but of a criminal who deliberately defrauded vulnerable residents out of significant sums of money. My thoughts are with the residents and the council will be pressing to ensure money is recovered from Proceeds Of Crime Act proceedings and that compensation is paid to the victims.
I would like to thank our trading standards officers, legal teams and the courts for bringing this individual to justice for these appalling crimes. I hope that this case acts as a deterrent to any other builder who targets and defrauds residents in this way. The council will pursue you through the courts and ensure that you are prosecuted and that victims receive compensation.
It is estimated only 5% of scams are reported so we would encourage everyone to not be afraid or embarrassed to report an incident and seek support. The information could also help our Trading Standards Officers prevent future incidents.‘
Trading Standards advice to avoid getting tricked out of your money is:
- Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to shut the door if someone cold calls you.
- Take your time, don’t be rushed into making a decision.
- Know who you are dealing with and get at least three different quotes in writing.
Remember if you need work doing, you find the trader and don’t let them find you.
A Stop Cold Calling pack, including no cold calling stickers, has been designed to notify traders that cold callers are not welcome. Legitimate traders will abide by your wishes. You can request a pack by e-mail from [email protected].
Incidents of cold calling can be reported to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. If there is a doorstep crime in progress or you feel threatened, residents are advised to call 999.
*Source of information : Press release from Buckinghamshire Council.