A cowboy patio fitter from Northampton has been jailed for bullying two vulnerable elderly clients into spending thousands of pounds on new driveways.
James Doran was caught when a quick witted bank manager called the police after an 89-year-old customer came in to ask for a loan to pay the £6,500 cost of the shoddy work.
He went on to prey on an 87-year-old widow who suffered from dementia and did not know what she was doing when she signed a contract for £2,900.
Doran used three false names and three different company names, each with a different bogus address. His two victims lived in Plympton and Exeter and he used addresses in Marsh Barton and Launceston to throw investigators off his track.
He altered the dates on his agreements to make it look as if they had been signed days earlier, thereby getting round a law which gave customers seven days to change their minds.
His companies were called South West Patios and Drives, Abbey Paving, and Town and Country Driveways and operated all over Devon.
At the time he carried out his shoddy work he was already subject to a suspended sentence for similar consumer offences in Suffolk, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Doran and his sidekick Patrick Connors were eventually arrested outside the police headquarters building in Exeter when the family of the dementia sufferer kicked them off the job and complained to trading standards officers.
Doran, aged 29, formerly of Queen Eleanor Road, Northampton, and now living at Leighton Buzzard, and Connors, aged 24, of Hatfield, admitted a total of nine counts of fraud or misleading business practices. Doran was jailed for 30 months and Connors for 18 months, suspended for two years.
Doran’s sentence included the activation of a 12 months sentence imposed at Ipswich Crown Court for overcharging an 84-year-old pensioner from Felixstowe who was charged £18,000 for work worth £2,500.
He was living in Northampton and running his business from the town at the time.
Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, told them: “Those who target elderly people as victims of fraud must expect severe punishment. You used false business addresses, no doubt so you could not be traced when they complained.
“Honest men who do their best to do an honest job do not hide behind dishonest identities and details. One of these victims suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s and it must have been obvious she was of considerable age.
“Cases of fraud like these almost always involve targeting elderly people who are seen as easy prey.”
David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said Doran already had a police caution for fraud and was on a suspended sentence from Ipswich Crown Court for overcharging an 84-year-old widow in Suffolk.
In August 2012 an 89-year-old pensioner was cold called at his home in Plymbridge Road, Plympton, in the evening by Doran, using the false name of James Thompson.
He agreed to have his drive paved for £5,800 but the next day the price increased to £6,500 and the two men demanded payment as soon as the work was completed.
The agreement was backdated so the man did not have the seven day cancellation period and it gave a false address in Turners Close, South Petherwin, near Launceston, which was in fact an empty house.
Mr Sapiecha said: “The victim initially told the men he wanted the work done in October, when he would have the funds, but they did it straight away and asked for payment.
“He went to his bank where he asked his manager for a loan of £6,000 and the bank manager became suspicious about what he was told and called the police.”
The work was examined by trading standards officers and found not to include a weedproof membrane or hardcore and to have a 35 mm of the wrong sort of sand rather than the 50 mm of sharp sand as promised in the contract.
During the investigation he used the names James Thompson and Steven Thompson while dealing with trading standards officers.
The Plympton case was still being investigated when the pair struck again in Countess Wear, Exeter where their victim was an 87-year-old dementia patient.
They got her to sign an agreement while her daughter, who was her carer, was out, and started the work shortly afterwards.
The company called itself Abbey Paving and gave a false address in Trusham Road, Marsh Barton and one of the men gave the false name of Willis.
The woman’s daughter stopped them laying the driveway and called the police, who intercepted the two men at Middlemoor and found leaflets from a third driveway firm in the cab of their truck.
Robert Hawkins, for Doran, said he tried to do good quality work and one man’s drive is still in good working order 20 months after being fitted. He said he has learned his lesson and now trades legitimately through a limited company which has local authority contracts.
Gregory Fishwick, defending Connors, said his client was trying to follow his father into a successful family business but did so too quickly.
He said he wants to apologise to the victims and is determined to be more law abiding in his future business dealings.