Four men from Newcastle have been jailed after pocketing £114,000 from eight customers and never completing their jobs.
Clayton quartet Robert Johnson, Ronald Johnson, Richard Blundred and Kristoffer Henshall, from a home improvement firm, left a trail of heartbreak after overcharging clients, asking for money upfront, demanding further payments, and not finishing jobs.
It marks the end of a lengthy investigation led by Staffordshire County Council.
The victims were:
- Paraplegic Christopher Stott, of Cheshire, whose home improvement work for himself and his cancer-stricken wife remains incomplete. He paid out £15,000 and believes the actual cost to be nearer £30,000;
- A Stoke-on-Trent ex-serviceman injured in Northern Ireland who paid £15,000 for work which hasn’t been finished;
- An Eaton Park couple who have been left out of pocket and with an incomplete extension;
- Paramedic Peter Tansey, of Newchapel, who paid out £17,000 and has been left with an incomplete single-storey extension;
- A Stoke-on-Trent woman who secured a £5,000 judgement against the men after £2,180 of kitchen and bathroom works were not completed. It remains unpaid;
- Sheila Smith, of Fenton, who paid £8,500 for her 95-year-old dad’s wall to be rebuilt;
- Matthew Hancock, of Stafford, who paid out £5,000 and has been left with an incomplete job;
- The Reverend William Johnson, of Barlaston, who forked out around £50,000 to put right incomplete work. He had paid £25,000 to the defendants.
Robert Johnson, Blundred and Henshall pleaded guilty to a charge of fraudulent trading.
Robert Johnson and Blundred admitted fraudulent trading between April 25, 2016, and April 23, 2018, by misleading customers when they carried out work for JB Home Improvements Limited.
Henshall admitted fraudulent trading between February 16, 2018, and July 20, 2018, and engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action between April 26, 2016, and April 23, 2018.
A fourth defendant – 67-year-old Ronald Johnson – admitted engaging in a commercial practice which was ‘misleading’ and ‘aggressive’.
Jailing the defendants, Judge Jonathon Salmon accepted that some work was started with the intention of completing it.
But he added: “That rapidly turned to dishonest intentions to fob customers off to abandon the contract.
“This was dishonest behaviour over a sustained period of time.”
Robert Johnson, aged 33, of Denbigh Close, Clayton, was jailed for three years and seven months and disqualified him from being a company director for eight years;
Blundred, aged 33, of Bedford Crescent, Clayton, was jailed for three years and six months and disqualified him from being a company director for eight years;
Henshall, aged 31, of Melville Court, Clayton, was jailed for 15 months and disqualified him from being a company director for four years;
Ronald Johnson, of Denbigh Close, Clayton, was jailed for 14 months.
Earlier, David Farley, representing council tenant Blundred, had told the court that his client and Robert Johnson had been best friends since school. He has been affected by the death of his ‘life coach’ father.
Mr Farley said: “It wasn’t in their mind to go out defrauding people, bullying and lying to people. It’s a cause of great regret and shame for Mr Blundred that it went that way.”
In a letter, Blundred wrote: “I’m filled with regret and sadness. I’m willing to take anything given to me, for example, working in the community, paying back the customers.”
The court heard ex-Army Henshall was an employee of the company.
Daniel Lister, mitigating, said: “I accept he has repeatedly told lies. He was a naive and foolish participant.”
The council has welcomed the prosecution.
Councillor Gill Heath, cabinet member with responsibility for trading standards, said: “What these men did was truly wicked, preying on the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Not only did they mislead customers about the work they promised to do but when they were questioned about the work, they tried to bully their way out of it.
“The sentences reflect the dim view the courts take over such dreadful trading practices.”