A ‘COWBOY’ roofing contractor who conned vulnerable and elderly residents out of more than £26,000 was today beginning time behind bars.
John Gray left a trail of victims across East and West Sussex in his wake after making false claims about his services and tricking residents into parting with their cash unnecessarily.
The 27-year-old, who admitted fraudulent trading, was handed an eight-month jail sentence by a judge at Lewes Crown Court on Friday, July 10 2015, following a prosecution by East Sussex Trading Standards.
Judge Richard Hayward also ordered that Gray be disqualified from serving as a director of any limited company for five years.
East Sussex Trading Standards will now be applying for a compensation order in an effort to recover some of the money lost by victims, and a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act which would allow money made from Gray’s criminal lifestyle to be seized.
Cllr Rupert Simmons, East Sussex County Council lead member for economy, said: “This unscrupulous individual preyed on the elderly and the vulnerable to satisfy his own greed.
“These were people who had worked hard and saved for their retirement, only to be tricked and manipulated into handing over considerable amounts of money for services they didn’t need.
“Aside from the financial implications, they were caused immeasurable distress and worry by Gray’s actions, and sadly one victim died before the case came before the courts.
“This is a terrific result for our Trading Standards teams, who dedicate a huge amount of time and hard work in order to protect the public.
“This sentence should demonstrate to rogue traders who prey on our residents that we will use every weapon available to us to track them down and bring them to justice.”
Gray, who now lives in Old Bath Road, Colnbrook, Berkshire, was the sole director of Roof Revivers Ltd, a company originally based in Wickford, Essex, before moving its head office to Newhaven.
The Trading Standards investigation into its methods unearthed 10 victims, all in their 70s, 80s and 90s, who were targeted via leaflet drops or visits to their homes between May and October 2012.
The company’s fraudulent activities included falsely representing to consumers the need for and cost of having their roof repaired, with some victims falsely promised a discount for being ‘the first in their road’ to pay for the service.
It also offered victims a three-stage roofing treatment, including application of a protective coating which it falsely claimed was thermally efficient and would reduce energy bills.
Case studies – victims of the rogue roofer
Joan Davies, of Seaford, was 92 when she was targeted by Roof Revivers, which initially said her roof needed replacing at a cost of around £70,000, before offering to wash the roof and apply a coating with ‘thermal insulating properties’ for a ‘special price’ of £8,000.
She paid up and the work was completed within days, but alarm bells began to ring when her daughter, Valmai Goodyear, returned from holiday.
Mrs Goodyear said: “Mum wanted it to be a surprise because she thought it would increase the value of her property. They were very charming and flattering and she just didn’t want to believe she’d been conned.
“She got quite emotional and became angry with me and things were so bad that she came close to cutting off all contact with us. Trading Standards were brilliant with her and eventually it sank in.”
When she finally accepted she’d been a victim of scammers, it took a terrible toll on Mrs Davies, who sadly died aged 95 in April this year – just weeks before the case came to court.
Mrs Goodyear said: “She was a very proud lady and it was a horrible blow to her confidence to know her judgement had failed. The psychological impact was like being mugged.
“I think people who do something like this are absolutely despicable. I’m just glad it’s been publicly recognised that what this man has done is very serious, and I hope this will help to prevent it happening again.”
Jean Browne, 79, from Bognor Regis, was conned out of more than £9,000 by the company, who promised to wash and recoat the roof and replace any missed tiles.
The firm left having only washed the roof after one of its representatives demanded more cash and was refused.
Mrs Browne said: “There were so many people involved that it seemed like a big company, but in the end I refused to pay any more because they hadn’t done the job they promised.
“I was gutted when I found out I’d been conned and I was even frightened to tell my kids. It’s a lot of money and I wouldn’t have spent it on myself but on my grandkids.
“If anyone else finds themselves in that situation I’d say to them don’t pay a penny until the job’s done.”