‘Comprehensively dishonest’ cowboy builder jailed for conning Sheffield homeowners out of £24,000
A cowboy builder who conned Sheffield homeowners into paying £24,000 for ‘entirely valueless’ roof repairs has been locked up.
Simon Collins, 43, admitted five counts of fraud and three counts of dishonest commercial practices, relating to two Sheffield homeowners he ripped off between January and March 2017.
Sheffield Crown Court heard yesterday how Collins, of Fretson Road, Norfolk Park targeted his first victim on January 27, 2017, when he knocked on the front door of his property in Brincliffe Edge Road, Brincliffe.
“He [Collins] said he had been carrying out work for his neighbours, and had noticed that work needed doing on his roof,” said Zaiban Alam, prosecuting.
She added: “The complainant was aware that some roof work was required so he invited the defendant in...he made a list of the work that needed doing, and came up with an estimate of £8,900.”
When the complainant said the estimate ‘didn’t sound too bad,’ Collins told him the price estimate did not include VAT (value added tax).
“The defendant said the work needed doing immediately, and un-ticked a box saying he had a right to a 14-day cooling off period,” added Ms Alam.
The court heard how Collins, who purported to be trading under the name Everest Solutions, brought three other men out to start work immediately.
After work had commenced, Collins told the complainant that more work needed doing than he had originally thought and increased the cost of the repairs from £8,900 to £13,300.
“He said that because the costs had gone up he would need a cash injection of £7,000...and the defendant insisted he paid in cash, which he did,” said Ms Alam.
Collins subsequently asked the complainant to pay a further £7,000 in cash, and he gave him £4,000 instead.
Ms Alam said it was at this stage that the complainant realised he had been ‘ripped off’ and contacted the police.
Collins struck again in March 2017, when he targeted a retired homeowner living in Southey Green Road in a similar way to the first complainant.
He told the pensioner he was from Everest Solutions and could carry out necessary work to his roof for £3,000.
“The complainant states that he believed Everest Solutions were a reputable company, and that £3,000 was a reasonable price,” Ms Alam told the court.
Just as with the first case, Collins told the second complainant that more work needed to be done than he had originally anticipated.
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The second complainant ended up paying Collins a £13,000 for repairs, and to raise that amount he had to empty his life savings and borrow £5,500 from his daughter.
Part way through, when the second complainant said he had run out of money, Collins threatened to take him to court for breaching his contract, which led to him asking his daughter to loan him the money.
Collins’ scheming was finally brought to an end when council workmen who were carrying out work on a nearby property contacted the second complainant with concerns about the quality of the work being carried out on his roof.
During the course of an investigation from trading standards, surveyors found that the work carried out by Collins was ‘entirely valueless’; and in the case of the second complainant it cost him a further £4,500 to repair the damage caused by Collins.
Surveyors found that while some repairs did indeed need to be carried out on the first complainant’s roof, no work was required at the second complainant’s home.
In victim personal statements read to the court, the complainants described how Collins’ actions had hurt them, both financially and emotionally.
The first complainant said what happened had caused a rift in his family, and meant they were unable to take a family holiday.
The second complainant said Collins’ scheming had not only left him thousands of pounds in debt but had also left him feeling ‘devastated’.
Collins, who also also convictions for threatening behaviour, assault and affray, pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing.
Paul O’Shea, defending, said: “There were others involved, others who benefited financially as well, but he’s the only one in the dock.”
Mr O’Shea said Collins had ‘various troubling health issues’ for someone of a very young age.
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, jailed Collins for two years.
“This criminality was entirely motivated by greed. You are a comprehensively dishonest individual, and you have caused considerable financial harm to two individuals,” said Judge Richardson.
Speaking after the hearing, Ian Ashmore, Head of Environmental Protection at Sheffield City Council, said: “Collins callously preyed on people and took advantage of their trust. Our Trading Standards team worked hard to prove his crimes and bring him to justice and this conviction sends a clear message that we will not tolerate this within our communities.
“It should never come to this but we will continue to disrupt and prosecute rogue traders, doorstep criminals and scammers of all kinds and we ask anyone who suspects or witnesses suspicious activity to report it so that we can protect more people in Sheffield from fraudulent trading and financial abuse.”