A rogue builder who used the money he scammed from his victims to fund lavish holidays and shopping trips has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison following an investigation and prosecution by Suffolk Trading Standards.
Alan Middleton (45) of Merlin Close, Rugby, Warwickshire, but formerly of Saxmundham, traded across Suffolk as GK Builders, G & K Builders, Middleton Building Services, AGM Custom Construction and AGM Bespoke Construction Ltd.
Suffolk Trading Standards began an investigation into Middleton’s companies after receiving reports of customers who had paid for building work that was never completed.
Middleton employed a number of ruses to defraud his customers, including falsifying supplier invoices and using a fake VAT number.
Having told customers he would only work on one property at a time, he actually undertook multiple projects which were poorly carried out or left unfinished.
He also used a forged Federation of Master Builders insurance document to suggest he was insured to perform works.
In addition, he had previously declared himself bankrupt but failed to disclose this to consumers despite it being a legal obligation.
It is calculated that Middleton — who sometimes used the name Gary, reverting to his actual name upon realising he was under investigation — received around £592,000 from customers.
One contract was worth £380,000, with £70,000 VAT while another was for £210,000 with VAT of £45,000; Middleton was not VAT-registered.
Graham Crisp, Head of Suffolk Trading Standards, said: “Middleton is a greedy man who thought nothing of exploiting his customers, many of them using their life savings or taking out loans to pay for the work to achieve their dream home.
“He was utterly unscrupulous and did whatever he could to extract money from them.
“This included falsifying invoices to claim £170,000 in VAT despite not being registered, forging insurance documents to mislead people into thinking their properties were protected, and endangering lives by incorrectly stating building control was not required for projects when this was in fact needed.”
Middleton and his wife Katie (34) enjoyed holidays to Gibraltar and the Italian Grand Prix, regular visits to London, hiring caravans at a holiday park, and shopping trips.
Middleton was found guilty of five counts of fraud by false representation, one of theft, one under the Insolvency Act for obtaining payments over £500 whilst an undischarged bankrupt, and one offence under the Company Directors Disqualification Act for setting up a limited company as a bankrupt.
On 6 November at Wood Green Crown Court Middleton was sentenced to a total of four years and six months and disqualified as a director for five years by Recorder Sailesh Mehta.
He and his wife also pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulently obtaining a mortgage for themselves worth £400,000.
For those offences he was jailed for 12 months, to run concurrently.
Katie Middleton received a nine-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £140.
Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Public Health and Public Protection, said: “Middleton is now reaping the consequences of his actions and I hope his sentencing goes some way towards providing justice for those he exploited.
“Customers trusted him, but he abused that trust in a way that left them picking up the pieces.
“Not only would he disappear part-way through a job, causing untold distress when his victims had to finance the completion of his work, what work he did carry out was often to a poor standard.”