Rogue trader foiled by Merton Council

A rogue trader has been jailed for three years after an elderly couple handed over thousands of pounds for unnecessary building work.

The Mitcham couple were targeted by 23-year-old Luke Smith of Almners Road, Chertsey, Surrey and a number of other conmen over a period of months. Their ordeal only came to an end when they contacted Merton’s Trading Standards team resulting in Mr Smiths arrest and being charged with fraud.

Smith approached the victims in June 2011 and a price of £3000 was agreed to mend a leak in the roof of which £2500 was paid in advance. The roofing work was due to be completed whilst the couple were away on holiday and they expected to pay just £500 on their return

When they came back they were greeted by a scene of chaos with piles of rubble on the ground, scaffolding around their house and a big hole in their roof. Luke Smith told the couple the money they had already paid was just to cover the cost of the scaffolding and he needed another £1500 or they would have to stop work. After the couple gave him this cash he demanded another £5000.

The couple refused to pay until the work was finished and Smith became aggressive. He warned them that the job would not be completed unless they paid up. The elderly couple felt intimidated and contacted Merton Trading Standards for help.

On Friday 24 June 2011 Merton officers and Police from the local Safer Neighbourhood team waited for Mr Smith to come and collect his money. He eventually turned up and was arrested at the scene.

Expert evidence was obtained from a building surveyor who assessed the work completed at the property to be worth about £1500 but questioned whether it was even necessary. In addition the scaffolding was found to cost only £250.

During sentencing at Guildford Crown Court the judge described Smith’s offences as “mean”. He was also given concurrent sentences for another doorstep crime and house burglaries.

Merton’s cabinet member for community safety, engagement and equalities, Councillor Edith Macauley said “It is upsetting when elderly and vulnerable members of our community are targeted and I am happy the judge recognised the seriousness of this type of offence.

“Our officers and the Police work hard to combat this type of fraud, however we rely on the community to raise the alarm. I urge all residents to report any suspicious cold calling to our Trading Standards team on 020 545 4018.”