Trader ‘preyed on the elderly’

News story
News story

A ROGUE trader who preyed on vulnerable Wiganers writing wills that were “not fit for purpose” may face a jail term.

Samuel Eaton pleaded guilty to four charges of breaching trading regulations at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court.

The 66-year-old operated under two company names in the borough, The Pensioners Association and The Senior Citizen Advice Centre.

He was told a custodial sentence has not been ruled out and will learn his fate at Liverpool Crown Court later this month.

Magistrates heard Eaton, who lives in Lincolnshire, had contacted residents offering advice and services in regard to wills, trusts and power of attorney matters.

A number of elderly victims were informed by Eaton they faced losing their property if they were suddenly taken into care as their homes would be used to cover care costs if they didn’t have proper legal documentation.

But the wills and trust documents Eaton offered, for prices of around £1,000, contained clauses which contradicted each other and would have required further legal clarification.

Wigan Trading Standards officers, who led the investigation, contacted Paul Sharpe of the Professional Willwriters organisation who said the documents were “sub-standard”.

The court heard Mr Sharpe added the documents “contained ambiguity in regard to the wishes of the client”. But in one case, a bizarre clause was created in one person’s will which paid funds back to the victim herself!

The four victims who formed the basis of the prosecution case had paid Eaton between £3,500 to £4,000 for his services. John Hera, defending, said his client is “very remorseful”, adding: “He has entered into a business venture with his eyes half open. He would like to write to each of the victims (to apologise).”

Speaking after the court hearing, Wigan Trading Standards Manager Julie Middlehurst said: “This has been a lengthy investigation and we are pleased he has pleaded guilty so that these elderly victims are not put through the ordeal of a trial. The case heard from a small number of victims, our investigation received more complaints but for many reasons elderly victims are often reluctant to come forward and make a formal statement.

“Some of them were contacted just after loved ones had passed away and we are hopeful that their vulnerability is taken into account when the case is sentenced.”

Eaton will appear at Liverpool crown court on May 26.