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Conman builder jailed for swindling £165,000 from unsuspecting customers

Thursday 30 June 2016

A rogue-trader has been sentenced to five years imprisonment, after he was prosecuted by Sheffield Trading Standards for defrauding local people out of thousands of pounds through his building companies.

On Wednesday 11 May Wayne Mark Smith, 47 of Doncaster Road, Barnsley pleaded guilty to 17 offences under the Fraud Act 2006, the Company Director Disqualification Act 1986 and the Companies Act 2006 and was sentenced today (Thursday 30 June) at Sheffield Crown Court.

The prosecution by Sheffield City Council Trading Standards focused on a period between 2013 and 2014, during which Smith conned his customers out of over £165,000.

The investigation began following complaints from customers against his businesses ‘Build 4 Ltd’ and ‘Constellation Construction Ltd’. The yearlong investigation led by Sheffield also involved officers from North Yorkshire and Cheshire Trading Standards with support from South Yorkshire Police.

Mr Smith, a disqualified director and undischarged bankrupt managed and ran the companies, amassing large debts with suppliers and misleading customers about his services.

He gained the trust of his customers, presenting himself as an honest and reliable builder and businessman, taking large deposits and in some instances, further substantial interim payments. He failed to order goods or complete work, leaving customers to pay thousands for their projects to be completed.

One victim was left living in a guest house after paying more than £37,000 to Smith when he left her without water supply and one working electrical socket in her 3 bedroom house. Another victim paid Smith £13,480 for a new kitchen which was never installed leaving them having to pay a further £11,000 to tradesmen to complete the works.

During interview, Mr Smith said the money had been ‘eaten up by ‘cashflow’ and that he had ‘robbed Peter to pay Paul’. He admitted it was ‘reckless’ to continue to take money from clients when his businesses were in a ‘poor financial state’.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Environment at Sheffield City Council said: “We congratulate our officers, their colleagues and South Yorkshire Police for their work over a considerable period of time that has finally led to the imprisonment of this rogue trader.

“The Trading Standards Service plays an important role, not only in protecting local residents but also local businesses, whose reputations are tarnished by this kind of blatant fraud. This case demonstrates our commitment to protecting residents and reducing fraudulent crime in the city.

“We are grateful to all those who came forward to help us secure this conviction and prevent others from the same fate and I hope the victims feel justice has been served with the passing of this sentence.”

Sheffield Trading Standards began their investigation following complaints from local consumers. As Sheffield continued to gather evidence, officers in North Yorkshire and Cheshire joined the investigation. Arrests and interviews were supported by South Yorkshire Police as the extent of Wayne Smith’s criminality became clear.

Detective Constable Matt Penn of South Yorkshire Police said: “This case is a great example of partnership working, both at a local and regional level.

“The investigation was both complex and lengthy, with Smith responsible for causing great financial loss. His actions have had a significant impact on his victims’ lives.

“We congratulate our colleagues in Sheffield Trading Standards for their hard work and dedication in bringing Smith to justice.”

Mr Smith admitted to four offences under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 for running his businesses whilst being a disqualified director and an undisclosed bankrupt, two offences under the Companies Act 2006 of running fraudulent businesses and a further eleven individual offences under the Fraud Act 2006 of making false representations in order to make a gain.

During sentencing, Recorder Batiste told Smith: “These offences will have caused untold misery and I’m satisfied that you are a thoroughly dishonest man.”

Of the five year imprisonment sentence Mr Smith will serve a minimum of two and a half years and will remain on licence for the remaining two and half years.

Cllr Lodge added: “We know that people can unwittingly fall victim to frauds, whether through rogue trading as in this case or over the phone, on the doorstep or through mail scams. We understand the concerns local residents have and continue to develop new ways to tackle these on-going threats. We would encourage people to report incidents, whatever their concerns so we can take action whenever possible.”

People with concerns or suspicions about a scam, rogue trader or fraudulent business activity can report those concerns to Sheffield Trading Standards at:

0114 2736290 (Sheffield Trading Standards)
03454 040506 (Citizens Advice Helpline)
Trading.standards@sheffield.gov.uk

ENDS