Rogue trader jailed after conning widow, 88
An 88-year-old widow who is recovering from breast cancer has spoken of her ordeal after a rogue trader conned her out of Â£12,000 for roof work.
Residents in Leyland, Walton le Dale, Clayton Brook and Southport fell victim to Steven Lee, 32, of Rosemary Lane, Bartle, Preston.
He admits being a party to a business known as Trade Mark Roofing Specialists that was carried on for a fraudulent purpose and is starting a 40-month jail term after a Lancashire Trading Standards prosecution.
Judge Simon Newell, sitting at the Sessions House Court, was told Lee’s offences involved swindling around £60,000 from his victims.
Grandmother Elizabeth Hollyoake was recovering from a mastectomy when Lee targeted her son - and then her - by claiming they had “rotten roofs.”
The mum-of-three, who has been a widow for 22 years, had to use her savings after he kept increasing the total for the work at her bungalow.
She said: “I was later told the job would have cost around £7,000, but he charged me £12,000 - and I had to pay £2,000 more to fix the damage he did to my conservatory roof.
“He deserves every bit of his sentence. His victims will probably never see any compensation because he has no assets.
“I felt I had no choice but to hand the money over because he had my roof covered in tarpaulin and said he couldn’t do any further work without the cash.
“I had to get ISAs out. As well as losing the money I have lost interest. I usually go to Malta with friends after Christmas but could not go this year.
“I’m an OAP and my savings had gone. I’m still recovering from breast cancer and needed to buy an automatic car as the operation has affected my arm.
“I’m not gullible as a rule but because the work he had done for my son seemed all right at first I agreed to have the work done.
“I’m surprised at myself – but if he had cold-called rather than be recommended I would not have done it.
“My son feels awful.
“I’ve always had reputable tradesmen and this has made me mistrustful.”
Mrs Hollyoake’s son, who was one of Lee’s victims, had a triple heart bypass around the time of the offences, while she too was ill.
She adds: “All these things add up to make everything worse. I know I’ve got to forget it and move on.”
Prosecuting, Jacob Dyer said the case concerned unnecessary, grossly over-charged and poor standard work between October 2015 and August 2016 by Lee’s firm Trademark Roofing Specialists. Victims were charged tens of thousands of pounds for re-roofing when the most that was needed were minor repairs.
Steven Lee was the one who dealt with the customers, advised them that the work needed doing and fixed the prices while a relative carried the work out.
Trademark received £60,635 from this fraudulent activity, though repayments totalling £7,500 were made following the involvement of Trading Standards.
Some of the victims were further out of pocket as a result of having to ask competent roofers to rectify work.
The court heard Steven Lee first offered to fit a new roof with a 10-year guarantee for Mrs Hollyoake’s son in October 2015, after he had been recommended by another trader
After a few days, when a lot of tiles had been removed, Steven Lee showed Mr Hollyoake that the rafters were “banana shaped” and that it would cost an additional £2,000 to fix this.
By mid November there was a leak in his adjoining conservatory which Lee claimed was down to those who had built the conservatory.
In total the victim paid £20,100 in cash from his savings to try to fix the leaking roof - but a surveyor later said it should have cost only £2,500.
Towards the end of October 2015 Lee persuaded Mrs Hollyoake she too needed a complete re-roof for £10,500 - but then tricked her into paying a further £1,700 to replace the tiles on her extension claiming he “could not provide a guarantee” unless it was done.
She returned from holiday to find the gutters had not been connected, rubbish everywhere, and water running everywhere except down the gutters.
She tried to contact Lee for several weeks and when he turned up in March 2016 he tried to convince her her garage was falling apart. An inspector later deemed the roof work was unnecessary.
An 85-year-old woman in Walton-le-Dale handed over £8,400 for substandard roof work - almost all her savings. When her family realised the work was defective Lee failed to return - instead holidaying in the US. Lee’s defence lawyer said he had recently suffered a failed marriage, the bereavement of his brother and mental health issues
Judge Newell said: “There was an abuse of trust planning and deliberate targeting which makes it a high culpability offence. One victim couldn’t afford to go on holiday, while you were on holiday in the US.”
Defendant had previous conviction
Steven Lee, 32, of Rosemary Lane, Bartle, Preston, was jailed for 40 months.
He admitted being party to a business that wascarried out for a fraudulent purpose when he appeared at Preston Crown Court.
Lee had previously hit the headlines in 2013 when he and his father charged £15,000 for roofing work which was of very poor quality.
On that occasion he was convicted of failing to give consumers notice of cancellation rights and engaging in an unfair commercial practice.
Steven Lee Senior, of the same address, was jailed for 18 months after admitting knowingly participating in a fraudulent business.
County Councillor Albert Atkinson said, “This is the longest term of imprisonment Lancashire Trading Standards has ever secured and shows just how seriously the courts view this kind of offending.
“It is really heart-breaking to hear how victims have been stripped of their savings and now face an uncertain financial future as a result of Lee’s terrible crimes.”