TWO rogue traders who conned vulnerable pensioners in Batley and Mirfield have been jailed.
Robert Morrison and Paul Towers were jailed for four years and three months at Leeds Crown Court after they duped dozens of ‘customers’ into paying for sub-standard driveways.
The duo put £2.5 million through a cash shop without paying a single penny in income tax for their company, Resinways.
Their victims included a Mirfield woman, who was given a 20-year guarantee, but noticed cracks within months.
She called the company more than a dozen times to discuss the situation, but nobody came and the guarantee was worthless.
In the end she ended up replacing her driveway by a different company, costing £4,000.
They also fleeced a Batley pensioner, who slipped on her driveway the day after work was completed – and her postman did the same.
The court heard that at one point the Brighouse-based firm was the most complained-about to Trading Standards in the country for asphalting and paving.
They deliberately targeted older people across the county, advertising the resin-bound drives they installed on the customer’s existing surface as “durable, weed-free and anti-slip.”
They continued to make the claim despite numerous complaints against the work they carried out.
Morrison, 35, of Lower Crow Nest Drive, Lightcliffe, admitted 12 charges contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Towers, 37, of Verdun Road, Wibsey, pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the same legislation. James Lake, prosecuting, told the court: “The evidence demonstrates the unscrupulous, disreputable and persistent manner in which they conducted their business.
“Rather than taking care to avoid entering into contracts with vulnerable and elderly people, Morrison and Towers sought out these people as customers as they were easy targets."
After numerous complaints about sub-standard work and a failure to refund deposits when customers cancelled work, trading standards officials visited the company’s offices in March 2013 to remind the pair of their obligations to customers.
These warnings were not acted upon and officers once again visited in October that year.
Documents were seized from the firm which described customers as: ‘Alzheimer’, ‘Blind’, ‘Dementia’, ‘Gimmer’ and ‘Raver’ – in their terms, raving mad.
Jailing them, Judge James Spencer QC said: “You decided to exploit these people, you were completely callous in your approach.
“This kind of commercial activity is sometimes given the sobriquet cowboy builders, that would be an insult to cowboys I’m afraid, because this was much worse.”
After the case David Lodge, head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This is an excellent result for the newly-formed West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team, a partnership between the Police and Crime Commissioner & West Yorkshire Trading Standards.
“This is the worst case that this service has come across in respect of aggressive and unfair trading practices against the elderly.
“Morrison and Towers were unscrupulous, calculating and ruthless in the way they deliberately targeted and exploited the most vulnerable in society.”