A fraudster who systematically stole more than £100,000 from a retired resident of Rugby has been successfully prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service.
Darren Mitchell, trading as Stately Paving Ltd, cold-called at the elderly man’s bungalow in July 2014 and offered to pave his driveway and remove an old greenhouse. The visit marked the first of many, as Mitchell returned time and time again, pressuring the vulnerable homeowner to pay for more work including fencing and window repairs.
The work was either never completed or was carried out at grossly excessive costs.
One expert witness at the trial estimated that the true value of the work carried out by Mitchell was less than £20,000, with remedial works being required costing approximately £3,835. The victim had been charged £120,000.
As the fraud progressed, the resident was tricked into withdrawing large amounts from the bank, sometimes on a daily basis. On one occasion the victim wrote a cheque for £20,000 which was meant to pay for a new shed. Instead Mitchell used the money to buy three vehicles.
In order to remain hidden from his customers, Mitchell gave the name of a Leicestershire farm as his business address, despite having no connection at all with the farm or the people living there.
When Warwickshire Trading Standards Service became aware of the fraud it launched an investigation, but in 2017 Mitchell disappeared and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found and subsequently arrested in 2019.
At Warwick Crown Court on 11 March 2022, Mitchell was found guilty of four offences contrary to the Fraud Act 2006 and one offence contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The case was adjourned for sentencing on 7 April 2022.
Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “This has been a very lengthy and complicated investigation, but I’m delighted that our Trading Standards Service has been able to bring about a successful prosecution.
“Warwickshire Trading Standards will continue to seek to protect the most vulnerable in our community by raising awareness of the activities of rogue traders, supporting vulnerable residents when rogue traders arrive on their doorstep and investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.”
Warwickshire Trading Standards is now attempting to recover some of the money lost to the victim in this case.