A pair of rogue traders have been jailed for a combined total of six years and eight months at Bristol Crown Court for defrauding customers of their roofing businesses out of £150,000 – many of whom were elderly or vulnerable.
Following an investigation by South Gloucestershire Council Trading Standards, Patrick O’Connor (33) and Patrick O’Brien (23) of Banwell, North Somerset pleaded guilty to a total of 18 fraud offences relating to roofing work carried-out between 2017 and 2020.
The presiding judge described the pair as ‘stunningly dishonest’ and sentenced O’Connor to four years and O’Brien to two years eight months in prison. Both were made subject of a five-year Criminal Behaviour Order which prevents them from cold calling at any property or being involved in building work. They were also both disqualified from being company directors for five years.
Trading Standards became concerned by the pair’s activity in 2019 and launched an investigation into the roofing businesses they operated. It transpired that they had been offending under the guise of three separate companies – Frampton Roofing Ltd, SW Roofing Ltd and Roofing Services Bristol Ltd.
In March 2021 South Gloucestershire Trading Standards and Police raided a plot in Banwell linked to the pair. A large amount of evidence was gathered, and a sniffer dog discovered £15,000 in cash stuffed into a handbag. The cash was seized and forfeited under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Multiple victims from South Gloucestershire and others in Bristol, North Somerset, Wiltshire and Surrey were traced, many of whom were pressurised into agreeing to work which was started and completed with no legal opportunity to cancel provided. O’Connor and O’Brien sometimes operated alone, but often together to defraud their victims.
The pair were found to have extortionately overcharged a 70-year-old South Gloucestershire resident £51,250 for roofing and other work done at his home; work which an expert surveyor was very critical of and valued at no more than £15,400 – if properly done.
Further evidence led Trading Standards to a contractor who had been defrauded out of £33,000 by O’Connor who deceived him into re-surfacing a 1,500 square metre plot of land in Banwell, by telling him it was for a riding centre for the disabled. O’Connor did not pay a penny once the job was completed.
Victims also reported being pressurised into agreeing for additional and unnecessary roofing work which the pair would often tell them about when jobs were at crucial stages. A surveyor examined nine of their jobs and concluded that they were either worthless, or largely worthless and that the additional work carried-out was unnecessary.
The investigation also liaised with HMRC who confirmed that they had no records for the previous six years of either defendant or their companies paying any tax.
In addition, the pair will also be dealt with under the Proceeds of Crime Act at a later hearing which will establish the legitimacy of some £1.8 million which was discovered to have passed through bank accounts controlled by the pair during the period of offending.
Councillor Rachael Hunt, cabinet member responsible for Trading Standards at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “This has been an extremely wide-ranging investigation and both offenders ignored advice given to them prior to it commencing. Many of the victims of these crimes were elderly and vulnerable and rogue trading is fraudulent behaviour that can devastate victims. I firmly agree with the judge in that the actions of this pair were stunningly dishonest; this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in South Gloucestershire and we will be relentless in our pursuit of any perpetrators operating in this manner to ensure justice is served.”
Anyone who suspects that rogue traders are operating in their area is advised to contact Trading Standards on 0808 223 1133.