Rogue trader sentenced after fleecing two pensioners

Published Wednesday, 22nd May 2024

A landscape gardener has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out unpaid work and pay compensation after taking deposits from two pensioners for work that he failed to complete.

Darren John Graham, 51, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to fraud and consumer protection offences at Teesside Magistrates Court following an investigation by Hartlepool Borough Council’s Trading Standards Team.  

Between August and October 2022, he was paid £3,820 by two women who are neighbours, to undertake landscaping work in their back gardens. They were told that the payments were for deposits to buy the materials.

patio works 1
patio works 1

However, the only work Graham carried out was the removal of their existing patios and neither of the pensioners received any of the materials. One of the ladies only met him once on the day she handed him a cheque for £900. He never returned as promised.

Graham received a 26-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months and was ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work. He was also told he must pay a total of £4,420 in compensation to the victims and pay £600 investigation costs.

Councillor Karen Oliver, Chair of the Council’s Neighbourhood Services Committee, said: “Cowboy builders who rip people off need to be aware that Hartlepool Trading Standards will never hesitate to take action against them to curb their contemptible, criminal behaviour.

“In this case, the two ladies’ support for the investigation was instrumental in ensuring that we secured this prosecution, and I would like to thank them for their courage and co-operation in very difficult circumstances.”

Councillor Jonathan Brash, the Chair of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership and the Council’s dedicated elected member for dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour, said: "Preying on vulnerable pensioners to fleece them out of their hard-earned savings is a despicable crime and one that should come with far tougher sentences in my view.

“We have so many fantastic companies in Hartlepool who deliver brilliant services, so it’s important to root out these bad apples. I pay tribute to our Trading Standards Team for taking this case on to protect Hartlepool people, and I would urge anyone impacted by these kinds of issues to report them immediately."

Hartlepool Trading Standards advises people thinking of getting home improvement work carried out to always obtain three quotes before making a decision and never pay a trader until the job is completed satisfactorily.

Anyone requiring advice about unfinished or unsatisfactory work should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 11 33.