TWO brothers have been jailed for defrauding 12 people out of a total of £100,000 by cold calling and grossly overcharging them for unnecessary work to their homes.
John and Mark Cooper carried out their rogue trading operations across Essex and East London – including Basildon, Billericay, Brightlingsea, Colchester, Hutton, Leigh and Westcliff – between 2011 and 2014.
They used different company names before cold calling their vulnerable victims and insisting that work was required to their homes, driveways and front gardens.
The pair, of Harrow Road, North Benfleet, would often tell their victims that their homes were structurally unsafe and if not fixed could pose a risk to members of the community.
The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate investigation found that one of their victims, a man in his 80s, paid £44,000 for work to his roof and chimney before being asked to give a good reference for their overcharged work.
An expert surveyor who viewed this work said it should have cost no more than £7,500.
In another case, an elderly couple were charged £8,500 for repairs to their roof and guttering – work that should have cost just £100.
Mark Cooper, 31, pleaded guilty to seven counts of money laundering while John Cooper, aged 20, admitted 12 counts of money laundering.
They were both jailed for two years at Basildon Crown Court yesterday, Thursday, 12 January.
They were also made subject of Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) lasting five years. Any breach of the order is a criminal offence and punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Becky Mansey said: “These were despicable crimes carried out by two cold-hearted men who preyed on the vulnerable and elderly.
“The Coopers took advantage of the goodwill of their victims, telling them their homes posed a risk to people before conning them out of vast sums of money by carrying out work that was completely unnecessary.
“We hope the sentences come as some solace to their victims and send out a strong message that those who prey on the most vulnerable members of our communities will be brought to justice.
“The gaining of SCPOs was a critical factor in the sentencing and put strict controls on both suspects when they are released from prison, thus working to prevent further vulnerable victims in the future.
“Work is now ongoing to recover the money they conned out of their victims.”
Essex Police advises anyone who wants to make improvements to their home to use a trusted tradesperson. The Trading Standards website offers valuable information that can be used to assist you.
Should you be offered work as a result of a cold call, then the trader should offer a cooling off period of 14 days. Don’t feel pressurised to waiver this right.
For more advice about rogue trading visit https://www.essex.police.uk/advice/rogue-traders/ .