The case followed a two-year investigation by Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards into roofing work done on two residents’ homes by a series of workmen, who kept on finding more ‘repairs’ needing attention, and kept asking for more money.
And after the residents – one of whom was from the Buckingham area – had paid successive bills, the money was laundered, Aylesbury Crown Court was told.
But when Trading Standards officers commissioned independent surveyors to examine the men’s work, they said it had all been unnecessary, of no merit, and in one case was worth no more than £281.
The court was told the residents, Roger Faulkner, from the Buckingham area, and Brian Hotham, from the Thatcham area, were contacted via a cold call and offered a low building work quote that increased once workmen were in the property. In both cases the work was unnecessary and practically worthless.
Andrew Davies, prosecuting, told the court: “The crime committed against both are characterised by similar stories: the use of multiple individuals spinning similar stories designed to worry, confuse and defraud the victims.”
Mr Davies said in total Mr Faulkner had paid out just over £73,000 and Mr Hotham had paid out just over £186,000.
Billy Hilden, of Croydon, south London, was jailed for three and a half years for his part in the fraud and laundering £24,600.
Colin Packham, of Morden, south west London, was jailed for 14 months on six money laundering charges involving the acquisition and disposal of £25,250 from both residents.
Trading Standards manager David Pickering said the investigating teams from Buckinghamshire and West Berkshire had been able to account for only part of the overall loss by the two residents, but could not establish where the rest of the money had gone.
He said: “This was the first money laundering prosecution for Buckinghamshire. It’s only in the past few years that we’ve been able to look in detail into rogue traders’ bank accounts. We now have the tools to find out where they hide the money and trace back to the source of the fraud.”
Martin Phillips, Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member for community engagement and public Health, paid tribute to the ‘tenacity’ of Trading Standards investigators.
“Their patient and determined investigation demonstrates we will continue to prosecute these crooks until they realise Buckinghamshire is a no-go area for them,” he said.
“Doorstep rogue traders may seem plausible, but we all need to be watchful that we - and our neighbours - aren’t taken for a ride by them.”
A third defendant, Michelle Edwards, who lives in Surrey, admitted charges of acquiring and transferring criminal property.
She said she had met a builder, who asked her to put £12,000 from one of the residents through her account as he didn’t have a bank account. She told the court she understood the builder was not planning to declare the money to HMRC.
She was sentenced on July 1 to four months in jail suspended for two years with a 12-month supervision order.