Two men were jailed at Bristol Crown Court today for defrauding 17 customers who had roofing jobs done by a number of businesses operated by the pair.
They sometimes operated alone, but often together, in order to defraud their customers, some of whom were elderly and vulnerable, and netted over £150,000 from their victims.
Patrick O’Connor (33) and Patrick O’Brien (23) appeared before HHJ Patrick at Bristol Crown Court today, having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, and were sentenced for a total of 18 fraud offences relating to their business activity between 2017 and 2020.
They were sentenced to 4 and 2 years 8 months in prison respectively and were both made subjects of 5 year Criminal Behaviour Orders preventing them from cold calling and being involved in building works. They were also both disqualified from being company directors for 5 years.
South Gloucestershire Trading Standards first became concerned by the activities of O’Connor and O’Brien in 2019 and began to investigate their activities across a number of roofing businesses in 2020. It transpired that they had been offending via the guise of 3 seemingly legitimate companies – Frampton Roofing Ltd, SW Roofing Ltd and Roofing Services Bristol Ltd.
Multiple victims were soon traced, many of whom reported being pressurised into having roofing jobs done, being given no legal opportunity to cancel agreements and that works were commenced quickly and completed extremely quickly.
Victims also reported being pressurised into agreeing for additional unnecessary roofing work which the pair would often tell them about when jobs were at crucial stages.
A surveyor examined 9 of the roofing jobs done and concluded that they were either worthless or largely worthless and that additional work claimed to be necessary did not need doing at all.
The investigation established that some victims were asked to pay money for jobs into O’Connor and O’Brien’s bank accounts but also into accounts in the names of their wives so they could attempt to conceal assets in the event of detection.
In March 2021 South Gloucestershire Trading Standards and Police raided a plot of land in Banwell, North Somerset where the pair were suspected to live. A large amount of incriminating evidence was obtained and a cash-trained sniffer dog discovered £15,000 in cash in a lady’s handbag. The cash was seized and forfeited under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Further evidence led Trading Standards to a surfacing contractor who had been defrauded out of a staggering £33,000 by O’Connor who deceived him into re-surfacing a 1,500 square metre plot of land in Banwell, by telling him it was to be used as a riding centre for the disabled. O’Connor did not pay a penny once the job was completed.
In another incident, the pair extortionately overcharged a 70-year-old victim £51,250 for roofing and other work done at his home; work which an expert surveyor was very critical of and who valued it at £15,400 if properly done.
The investigation also involved enquiries being made with HMRC, who confirmed that they had no record, for the previous 6 years, of either defendant or their companies paying any tax whatsoever.
In court, Counsel for O’Connor stated that his client’s poor mental health had affected how he conducted his businesses, and it was revealed that he had previously been to prison for very similar offending.
Counsel for Patrick O’Brien described his client as ‘immature’ and as having a vulnerability about him.
HHJ Patrick described the men as operating with ‘stunningly dishonest behaviour’ in their businesses and said that the pair ‘exploited’ their victims and were ‘wholly unqualified’ for the jobs they were taking on .
In addition, the pair will also be dealt with under the Proceeds of Crime Act at a later hearing in 2023 which will establish the legitimacy of their income during the period of offending.
A representative for South Gloucestershire Council said afterwards ‘This has been an extremely wide-ranging investigation and both offenders ignored advice given to them prior to it commencing. Rogue trading is fraudulent behaviour and can devastate its victims. These types of actions will not be tolerated in South Gloucestershire.
Anyone who wishes to report suspected rogue trading activity can do so by telephoning 0808 2231133.