29th August 2023

Rogue plumber guilty of fraud

A rogue trader in Devon repeatedly defrauded an elderly couple over a five-year period.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team

A rogue plumber who repeatedly scammed an elderly couple has been given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay £8,000 in compensation following an investigation by Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service (HotSWTSS).

Gary Coombes, 58, preyed on the couple in Bridgwater, grossly overcharging them for boiler service and maintenance work as well as general home maintenance. Over a five-year period he defrauded them of £13,000 for work that was unnecessary and left unfinished.

It was only when the victim’s daughter became suspicious and reported Coombes to HotSWTSS that the fraud was uncovered.

Both victims were vulnerable and elderly, with the husband being a carer for his housebound wife.

On 22 August Coombes pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud at Taunton Crown Court. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay the couple £8,000 in compensation.

On sentencing, Judge Zeb told Coombes: “On each occasion you excessively overcharged, and rendered invoices that were grossly overinflated, false, and not reflective of the work required or done. In all that time, [the victims] came to know you, trusted you, and paid without question. It was dependent on you to conduct works honestly and at a reasonable cost. This couple had vulnerabilities that you prayed on repeatedly and caused them financial harm and stress.”

In mitigation, Judge Zeb acknowledged his guilty plea and that he had started to save towards the compensation payment.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Lead Member for Communities, Housing and Culture at Somerset Council said: “Our Trading Standards Service is an integral function to help businesses develop and grow while safeguarding consumers.

“This court case is an example of how our service will not tolerate negligence and dishonest trading.”

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