A prosecution brought by the Trading Standards Service of the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland has resulted in a suspended prison sentence for a doorstep criminal.
On September 2 at Belfast Crown Court, George John Gentle was given an 18-month custodial sentence, suspended for three years, for defrauding a Belfast man after cold-calling at his home and carrying out building work at his property.
Gentle pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud under the Fraud Act 2006 and four charges of misleading actions as a company director under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
He agreed to pay £10,000 in compensation to the victim and was disqualified from acting as a company director for three years.
In October 2019, Gentle called uninvited to the victim’s house in Belfast. He offered to replace an area of concrete paving outside the house for a cost of £950. This was the first of many visits over a period of several months, up to February 2020. During each visit Gentle persuaded the victim to agree to have a range of home improvement work carried out to the outside of the property.
On each occasion Gentle took substantial sums of money until he amassed a total of £31,300. It was accepted at court that the actual value of the work carried out was in the region of no more than £10,000.
Gentle pleaded guilty to one fraud charge and four charges of misleading actions as the director of First Trust Paving and Asphalt Ltd. These included telling the homeowner that he must hand over £7,000 to cover the VAT on the work carried out to his home, when in fact the company was not registered for VAT. Mr Gentle also told the resident that he had cleaned and sealed the roof of his home, when in fact he had not carried out this work.
Alison Gilchrist of the Trading Standards Service said: “Doorstep crime is carried out by unscrupulous individuals and groups who identify and prey on the older members of society, typically on those who are living alone and may be vulnerable for any number of reasons.
“They typically call uninvited and unexpected at someone’s home and offer to carry out property repairs such as roofing, tarmacking, power washing drives, gardening work etc. The householder is usually charged an exorbitant price for the work, which is often of poor quality or left unfinished.”