27th February 2024

Prison for prolific rogue trader

A cowboy builder who targeted vulnerable victims has been jailed for two and a half years.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
The stress, fear, financial hardship and despair that William caused me made the first three months after meeting him the worst time of my life

A rogue trader who preyed on vulnerable homeowners in Shrewsbury and Telford with unnecessary and unfinished repair work has been jailed for two and a half years.

William Longhurst (32), from Stoke-on-Trent, was investigated by Shropshire Council Trading Standards, supported by Telford & Wrekin Council Trading Standards.

Officers found that over a two-year period Longhurst had scammed six victims out of a combined total of more than £35,000 by taking upfront payments for property repair work which was either never carried out or completed to a very poor standard.

Most of Longhurst’s victims were elderly and lived alone. They told investigating Officers that he would demand payment in advance for building materials, scaffolding or skips which would never arrive. He would also claim to have found reasons for further repair work and demand additional payments, and offered a series of excuses when challenged about delays.

His offending escalated as he made false claims about the urgency of repair work, instilling a sense of fear and anxiety in his victims.

During trial, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard that Longhurst told one victim that her roof was rotten and that if it snowed heavily it could cave in. Longhurst extracted almost £5,000 from the homeowner, continually demanding more money until she had nothing left to give. In her statement the victim said that “the stress, fear, financial hardship and despair that William caused me made the first three months after meeting him the worst time of my life”.

A survey subsequently commissioned by Shropshire Council revealed Longhurst’s claims about the property’s roof to be false.

Longhurst made similar claims about the roof of another victim’s home, saying there were “huge problems” that necessitated immediate repair work. Over the course of two months Longhurst persuaded the victim to pay him almost £26,000, persistently inventing further reasons to pay him large sums of money.

An independent surveyor later deemed that the limited amount of roofing work Longhurst carried out on that property was “wholly unnecessary” and much of what he had quoted for was never done.

Longhurst pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and two related regulatory offences. He was jailed for two years and six months on 23 February 2024.

Chris Schofield, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for planning and regulatory services, said: “This case highlights that council boundaries are of no consequence when it comes to rogue traders, and that the joint approach with colleagues at Telford & Wrekin Council has seen an excellent result that sends a very clear message: we will not tolerate rogue traders operating in Shropshire or in our neighbouring local authority areas and, if they do, trading standards will work in partnership to investigate, prosecute and secure justice for victims and to protect our local businesses and economy.

“When traders operate fraudulently it impacts the ability of legitimate businesses to thrive, and both the financial and health impacts on individual victims and their families are severe.  These impacts undermine the council’s priorities around achieving a Healthy Economy and Healthy People, and I am fully supportive of the council’s trading standards team and the hard work they undertake to bring rogue traders to task.”

Richard Overton, Deputy Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council and Cabinet member for homes and enforcement, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and that these rogue traders who prey on vulnerable Telford & Wrekin residents are brought to justice.

“This case is an excellent example of partnership working between Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Council’s trading standards services in the interests of making both our council area and Shropshire safer places to live.

“We will continue to investigate deliberately fraudulent trading to ensure residents are protected from unscrupulous traders and legitimate businesses can trade fairly.”

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