A rogue Wigan builder who conned vulnerable householders out of £50,000 was put behind bars for three years.
A judge said that Stuart Magrath, ripped off 14 victims, many pensioners, all over the North West, over a two year period while self-employed with his co-accused in SB Building Services.
“You were the driving force and played a leading role in persuading customers to sign contracts.
“I find as a fact that when those contracts were signed by those people your state of mind was that you just wanted the cash.
“You could not care less whether the work was done properly, on time or in fact at all.
“To achieve that you lied to their faces. You were persistent, pestering them to sign, pestering them to pay and sometimes to pay again,” said Judge Stuart Driver, QC.
“Cynically you told one customer, ‘we are not a firm that rips off pensioners like you see on the telly.
“In fact that is exactly what you were.
“The work was either done badly, done late, done in part or not done at all. Many customers requested refunds, very few got any or very little money back….The harm was more than financial, it had a emotional affect on the lives of many of your elderly victims.”
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the victims, some of whom have lost all their life savings, were left devastated and distrustful.
The 39-year-old, of Albert Street, Newtown, had pleaded guilty to two offences of carrying out a business for a fraudulent purpose which spanned May 2016 and April last year.
The court heard that he has committed 32 previous offences, although none similar, and is a heavy drinker, who has since been convicted of battering the mother of his four children.
The victims, who ranged in age up to 86, lived in Wigan, St Helens, Liverpool, Bolton, Blackpool and Deeside.
His business partner, William Greenall, 60, of Irene Avenue, Haresfinch, St Helens, who admitted one of the two charges, was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 140 hours' unpaid work.
William Beardmore, prosecuting, said that Greenall, who has health problems and has never been in trouble before, had turned a blind eye to what was going on.
He explained that SB Buildings Services was not registered to pay tax and did not have any genuine business premises, insurance or business account.
Both men had no prior experience of being self-employed and had both been employed by separate window companies. Magrath canvassed by cold calling for new work while Greenall carried out building work and renovations.
“In one instance Magrath cold called at the same property 12 times before the occupier, an elderly lady, eventually opened the door to him,” said Mr Beardmore.
The company only dealt in cash and always took a deposit when the contract was signed, another payment due when materials were ordered and the balance due on completion but they were requested earlier than due.
Start dates were also put back, sometimes for months, work was not started or where it was it was not adequately completed. “When customers reached the end of their patience and requested a refund or remedial work all that was forthcoming was a series of excuses and broken promises,” he said.
Mr Beardmore told how Magrath badgered a 72-year-old Bolton woman over an hour to spend £6,500 on work that she did not need and afterwards the roof needed £2600 worth of remedial repairs.
Six householders in Wigan also fell prey to his weaselly words as did another woman in Bolton - whom he rang for over an hour shortly before 1am when drunk after she found out he had lied to her about working at other properties in the area.
The other victims were three families in St Helens, an 84-year-old man in Deeside and a woman in Huyton, Liverpool, who paid part payments of more than £2,500 for new windows which she never got and was never refunded.
Defence barrister, Cheryl Mottram, said that Magrath was under no illusion that he would be going to jail and was remorseful.
He set up the businesss early in 2016 but when work began to dry up he ran into financial problems and resorted to the tactics which he now regrets and is ashamed of. His long-standing relationship with the mum of his four children has broken down because of the stress and he has moved out of the family home.
Michael Hegarty, defending, said that Greenall had turned a blind eye to the complaints being made by victims. “He is embarked by his behaviour and shameful. He has never been in court before.”