Two rogue traders described by a judge as "an insult to cowboy builders" have been ordered to pay back more than £71,900.
Paul Towers and Robert Morrison - who traded as Resinways the Driveway People Ltd and Drive-Ways in Brighouse - were sentenced to four years and three months in jail at Leeds Crown Court in March 2017 following their conviction for a number of offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Following an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, confiscation orders were made against each defendant on Friday at Leeds Crown Court. They now been ordered to pay back a total of £71,992.04.
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Towers, of Verdun Road, Wibsey, Bradford, was found to have benefited from criminal conduct to the value of £309,548.71. However he was ordered to pay £65,024.32 which represented the total value of assets he currently holds. An eight month period of imprisonment was set in default of non-payment.
Morrison, of Lower Crow Nest Drive, Lightcliffe, Halifax, was found to have benefited from criminal conduct to a value £303,533.68. However he was ordered to pay £6,967.72 which represented the total value of assets he currently holds. A three month period of imprisonment was set in default of non-payment.
Both defendants have been given three months to pay the confiscation orders and if either of them come into further assets in the future, the law enables Trading Standards to recover further sums until they have fully repaid the sums.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson said: “I am pleased that the victims in this awful case have been compensated through the hard work of the joint investigation within West Yorkshire Trading Standards and prosecutors.”
“The callous impact of targeting people for financial exploitation and crime in this way is all too clear and it’s crucial that we protect and support those that are most vulnerable in our communities.”
“It’s pleasing to know that the team I have helped jointly fund and set up, The West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team, has contributed to protecting vulnerable people from these heartless criminals in bringing the offenders to justice.”
“The outcomes being making them accountable for their despicable actions as well as retrieving monies through the Proceeds of Crime Act that they gained illegally through exploiting some our most vulnerable residents.”
Their offending involved entering into a contract with a 94 year old man who had a significant visual impairment and was unable to read his contract. They also entered into a contract with an 84 year old lady with Alzheimer’s.
The pair told a customer that she had to pay them in full or men would be pulled off the job when it was only half-completed.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards said they also failed to refund deposits totaling £4,400 when consumers cancelled their contracts and failed to honour guarantees when consumers complained of defects with their driveways
They also advertised that their drives were anti-slip when in fact the company knew that customers had fallen due to the slipperiness of their drives.
Linda Davis, head of the West Yorkshire Exploitation and Abuse Team, said: “Many of the victims in this case were elderly and vulnerable with a number of them losing their entire life savings as a result of this unscrupulous rogue trading.
"However through the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act we have not only been able to recover the money lost by the victims, but have also ensured that the defendants will not financially benefit from their despicable criminal activities.”
The Financial Investigation Team at Trading Standards has been worked to retrieve compensation for the victims. As a result, compensation was awarded to all 17 victims in this case totaling £62,024.90. It recovers the total amount of loss incurred by these victims.
In 2014, Resinways was the most complained about company in the country in the “tarmacking and paving” category, said WYTS.
The authority received complaints that the company failed to refund deposits when they cancelled their contracts, others complained that their driveway was slippy, was sinking, cracking or was breaking up.
Customers who complained to Resinways received no positive response from the company despite being given a 20-year guarantee for their drive. When the reputation of Resinways became tarnished Morrison and Towers changed the name of the business to Drive-Ways and carried on as before, the authority said.
Trading Standards officers carried out a search of the company’s Brighouse premises in January 2015. Documentation and mobile phones seized showed that the company deliberately targeted those aged 60-plus, the elderly and vulnerable people.
As he jailed the pair, Judge James Spencer QC said they were "an insult to cowboy builders
The judge added that Morrison and Towers knew full well the vulnerability of the victims who were old, infirm and suffering from dementia.
He told themthat they were motivated by greed, were callous and not only had they breached the Regulations they had also breached common decency. He added that no civilized society should put up with their behaviour.