Builders 'bullied' widow out of cash
ROGUE traders "bullied" a widow out of £42,000, including funds saved for her disabled son, a court heard.
Brothers-in-law George Knowles and Clayton Penfold drove Anna Holloway to the bank so she could withdraw the cash, for work on her Bishopsworth home deemed by a building surveyor to be unnecessary, unfit and overpriced.
Bristol Crown Court was told that their scam was halted when a suspicious bank worker confronted them and police were alerted.
Knowles, 35, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty to fraud by obtaining the £42,000 as well as aggressive commercial practice.
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Penfold, 36, of Hewish, near Weston-super-Mare, pleaded guilty to aggressive commercial practice.
Knowles was jailed for two years for his leading role in the scam by Judge Michael Roach, who told him: "What you did was bullying and thoroughly mean."
The judge adjourned sentence on Penfold until next month, for financial recompense to Mrs Holloway to be established.
Alan Fuller, prosecuting, said Penfold, the proprietor of CJP Plastics, based in Heathfield Business Park, Congresbury, and Knowles exploited a vulnerable person.
Mr Fuller said Mrs Holloway was a widow who had a 20-year-old son with a muscle wasting disease and obvious mobility issues.
In 2010 Knowles called at Mrs Holloway's home, having just been released on licence from jail for fraud by rogue trading.
Mr Fuller said after doing some work on her guttering at a "reasonable" price, Knowles then returned to pressure Mrs Holloway into agreeing to a "catalogue" of jobs including trimming a hedge and building a garden wall for £2,800, block paving a driveway, laying gravel in the back garden, re-felting the roof and building a new chimney stack.
"She was frightened if she didn't pay money the defendants would down tools and leave her home with a half-finished job," said Mr Fuller. "Things came to a head when Knowles said she had an asbestos problem in her roof and if the gas man knew she and her son would be forced out and made homeless."
The conmen asked for more cash and in June 2011 drove Mrs Holloway to the bank. But bank worker Jodie Barge became suspicious, confronted Knowles and Penfold outside and they drove off in their van.
A building surveyor found only a small area of roof felt, in an area visible to Mrs Holloway, had been replaced and was leaky; her chimney and new wall were unfit for purpose and a hole had been put through a ceiling. The true value of the "work" was £10,000.
Richard Shepherd, defending Knowles, said he acknowledged the offences were "a matter of greed".
Mr Shepherd said: "The fault is clearly on the defendants. Mrs Holloway was conned, persuaded and cajoled and these defendants knew what they were doing."
Irshad Sheikh, defending father-of-three Penfold, said his client's guilty plea indicated his genuine remorse and he had expressed a desire to make recompense.
He said Penfold would be earning £500 a week from his father, who owns a scrapyard and has a contract with the Ministry of Defence.