24th June 2024

Rogue trader brought to justice

A rogue trader who targeted an elderly man has been jailed following a Reading Trading Standards investigation.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
This result is thanks to the swift and decisive action taken by our Trading Standards team

Reading Borough Council Trading Standards has secured a 32-month jail sentence for a rogue trader who ripped off a 90-year old local man – who sadly passed away without seeing justice being done.

The small patch of lawn for which Gorman charged £42,000 (image credit: Reading Borough Council)

Michael Gorman (47) overcharged the elderly homeowner for landscaping work, inflating prices over a six-month period before hitting him with a £42,000 bill for installing a small patch of artificial grass.

Gorman had originally quoted a price of £2,300 for installing the nine square metre patch.

When the first cheque for £42,000 was not honoured due to insufficient funds, the resident was pressured by Gorman to write another for £38,000.

After this second cheque was produced to Lloyds Bank in Reading, staff became suspicious and followed set bank protocols. Thames Valley Police were called and worked with Reading Borough Council’s Trading Standards Team, who launched an investigation.

As part of that investigation they found that the actual value of the work, including material and labour, was just £1,880.70.

The resident first hired Gorman, trading as MG Garden and Tree Services, to remove some trees in November 2021. Gorman had advertised his offer of “expert advice” and “a good job for a fair price with no hidden extras”.

After removing the trees and a wire fence, the resident was charged £900 but was not given a receipt. There was no prior discussion about the price or any written quote, contract, or invoice provided by Gorman.

Between November 2021 and April 2022, Gorman made several phone calls to the resident and returned to his property multiple times to carry out additional garden work.

This included the installation of a new fence for £1,400 and the removal and installation of concrete paving for £12,500; the actual cost of the work should have been just over £4,000. On both occasions, there was no discussion about cost, no quote or contract before the work started, or any invoice given on completion and payment.

At an earlier hearing on 29 January 2024, Her Honour Judge Heather Norton, sitting at Reading Crown Court, told Gorman he had acted disgracefully to a vulnerable pensioner who had no family to help him maintain his home.

She said the elderly resident lived alone and was inherently vulnerable due to his age, financial status, and mental capacity. The court heard it would have been clear to any visitor or tradesman.

The elderly victim passed away at his home a few weeks before Christmas 2023.

HHJ Norton said: “You realised this elderly man may not be able to keep track of his accounts, you tried to deceive him of a large amount of money”.

“You have lost your business and your integrity, and you should know better with an older relative you yourself have to provide care for.”

Gorman, of Hartley Wintney, Hook, admitted three counts of fraud at a hearing at Reading Crown Court on 2 January 2024.

Following a sentencing hearing on 14 June 2024 Gorman was immediately taken down to serve 32 months in custody. Due to his financial situation he was not ordered to pay any compensation or court costs.

Rob Abell, Consumer Protection Group manager at Reading Borough Council, said: “This result is thanks to the swift and decisive action taken by our Trading Standards team, whose meticulous investigation spanning many months has today ensured another unscrupulous rogue trader cannot continue to harm our vulnerable residents.

“Unfortunately, the victim has since very sadly passed away, I’m glad we still achieved justice in court.”

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