An Essex Trading Standards investigation of a rogue builder who defrauded his victims into paying up front for work that wasn’t completed has resulted in a three-year jail sentence.
Christopher Escrader (35) came to the attention of Essex Trading Standards in September 2019 after several of his customers in the county and the surrounding area complained about his activities.
The complaints related to various businesses operated by Escrader, including Hudson Garden Rooms Limited, which most consumers were contracted with, Hudson Bespoke Builders Limited, Hudson (Essex) Limited and Hudson Living Limited.
When Hudson Garden Rooms Limited went into liquidation, Escrader continued to trade and receive money in different business accounts without notifying customers which company they were contracting with.
He would quote prices ranging from £20,000 to £108,000 for various ‘dream build’ projects, creating 3D drawings and collecting 90% of the payment before starting work on site.
Promised start dates were delayed, and construction would begin but then would slow or cease after a period of time. Victims were left with half-finished shells, paid out for materials that were never ordered, and some later discovered that incorrect materials had been used. In one case, no work had been done at all.
Customers also discovered that they had paid up to £7,500 for planning permission and building control approval, despite no applications being made by Escrader.
The six victims paid more than £278,000 to Escrader, in addition to later paying substantial additional sums – a combined £150,000 – to complete their builds and to cover solicitors’ fees to resolve planning issues.
Escrader was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on 13 September to three years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to four counts of Fraudulent Trading under S.993 of the Companies Act 2006. He was also disqualified from being a company director under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 for seven years.
Councillor Mark Durham, Essex County Council Cabinet Member Responsible for Essex Trading Standards, said: “This has been a long-running investigation by Essex Trading Standards, and I would like to thank our team for all of their efforts.
“This prosecution shows we take illegal business activity very seriously and will not hesitate to take action against fraudsters where necessary.”