A GANG of cowboy builders who fleeced home-owners out of nearly £1m for work they never did – including residents in Swindon – have been given lengthy jail terms.
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The builders quoted for contracts totalling £1.8m and collected as much cash up front as possible before disappearing.
Gang leader Nicholas Harris, 45, was jailed for eight years, Mark Dixon, 43, was jailed for seven years and Matthew Higgins, 34, received a six-year prison term. All three men are from Gloucester.
The men ran two linked firms called Construction Management Development Ltd and CMD Services Ltd to con more than 50 people across the south of England out of more than £900,000.
According to prosecutors, the men deceived residents in Swindon, as well as Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, West Midlands, Bristol, Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, and Kent.
The gang targeted home owners who had been granted planning permission for extensions, Bristol Crown Court heard.
They claimed to be specialists at one and two-storey extensions and would offer very competitive quotes, an early start to the job and supply references from supposedly satisfied customers.
Once a contract was signed the gang would get their victims to hand over a deposit of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent before starting work.
One victim was quoted a price of £238,000 for work to his home and was conned out of £20,000 by the gang.
Many victims were anxious for the work to be completed so they could provide accommodation for elderly relatives. Some died before the work was completed.
In one case, a boy with cerebral palsy had to sleep on a sofa with his mother while his father slept on an inflatable mattress because Harris and his accomplices had let them down.
Prosecutor Rupert Lowe said: “Their business was geared to getting money. The whole operation was dishonest from start to finish, taking the maximum amount of money, doing the minimum work and then scarpering.”
The court heard Harris used the proceeds to fund a luxurious lifestyle.
The gang were found guilty by a jury last week of a charge of conspiracy to defraud between April 2005 and October 2007 after a three-month trial. Co-accused Leighton Docksey, 34, and Lee Ireson, 30, were found not guilty.
Jailing the trio, Judge David Ticehurst said the gang used lies and deception every day and branded the fraud breathtaking in its scope and scale.
“How any of you slept at night knowing how you were treating people, some with disabilities, some with elderly and sick relatives and disabled children, is beyond belief,” he said.
“It was deliberate and it was planned.”
The Swindon Advertiser
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