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Town Hall in Sheffield City Centre.
Town Hall in Sheffield City Centre.

‘Rogue trader’ scammed elderly couple out of thousands of pounds

1 May 2018

A Sheffield man has been found guilty of defrauding a retired Sheffield couple out of £2,400 in a roofing scam.

The jury at Sheffield Crown Court returned a unanimous verdict after a five-day trial which ended last week.

William Collins, aged 49, of Meadowhead Avenue, Sheffield was prosecuted by Sheffield Trading Standards and found guilty of offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. His co-accused, Patrick Martin Collins, aged 16, of Meadowhead Avenue, Sheffield and Mark Hepworth, age 35, of Orchard Lane, Doncaster were both acquitted of similar charges.

Whilst trading as Roofix, Mr Collins made a false representation about the need for emergency repair work on the roof of a Sheffield couple’s property and then intimidated, harassed and coerced them into agreeing to pay him cash to carry out the fictitious work.

A representative of Roofix made a cold call at the home of the couple who agreed to pay around £50 to have a missing roof slate repaired. Mr Collins subsequently ‘upsold’ the contract from £50 to £3,400 by telling the victims that further extensive emergency repair work was required and that scaffolding was needed. He intimidated the victims into believing their roof was in a dangerous state of repair and this work was urgent. The couple felt they had no option other than to agree to have it done. Luckily, they became concerned about Mr Collins’ behaviour and reported the matter to Sheffield Trading Standards before paying the bill in full.

During the investigation, Sheffield Trading Standards commissioned an expert assessment by an independent Building Surveyor who concluded that the work did not need to be carried out immediately and the victim’s roof presented no immediate danger.

When questioned by Trading Standards officers, Mr Collins chose not to answer any questions and denied any wrongdoing during the hearing. He is due to be sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court on Friday 18 May 2018.

Ian Ashmore, Head of Environmental Regulation at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is another successful prosecution by the council’s Not Born Yesterday campaign, led by Trading Standards and adult safeguarding services, with support from the police, Age UK and the fire service. This is delivering increased awareness and reporting of doorstep criminal activity and scams which has enabled the council to prosecute more of these despicable individuals who ruthlessly target residents, including the most vulnerable members of our society.

“Whilst some criminals target victims at their home and trick them into having unnecessary and overpriced property maintenance or building work done, financial abuse can take many forms. Although the elderly and vulnerable are more at risk, everyone should be aware of the danger signs. Some victims may receive lots of ‘junk mail’ from lottery or prize draw scams or mail order goods or they might be pestered by unwanted telephone calls from scammers.”

Other recent cases include Mr Fred Ayres who pleaded guilty to fraud and consumer protection offences in January 2018 and was sentenced to a 12-month custodial sentence suspended for two years and Mr Wayne Smith who is serving a five-year prison sentenced for rogue trading.

Last year, Sheffield Council’s Trading Standards officers intervened in more than 30 serious incidents of doorstep crime involving elderly or vulnerable residents and investigated dozens of allegations of rogue trading.

The officers have also been visiting hundreds of people at risk of mail and phone scams. Thousands of door stickers and leaflets have been distributed across the city. This important work continues with a number of other criminal prosecutions pending. Advice and leaflets on the Not Born Yesterday campaign are available at: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/sheffield/home/business/trading-standards.html
Anyone who has concerns that someone they know may be a victim of scammers or rogue traders should call 03454 040506 or email trading.standards@sheffield.gov.uk.