A cowboy tradesman fleeced customers out of thousands of pounds for home improvements he never intended to carry out.
Robert Cooper, 61, took deposits from unsuspecting householders – including several in Leeds and Wakefield – for bathrooms and kitchens that he then failed to fit.
One victim told the Yorkshire Evening Post he came across as a “perfect gentleman”.
But David Lodge, of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, which investigated the case, said he was a conman. “Although Mr Cooper was operating a business that could have been viable he deliberately chose to defraud his customers by taking substantial deposits with no intention of carrying out any work,” he said.
“Even when his customers tried to contact him to complain it made no difference.”
Cooper, 61, ran RCA Home Designs from premises in Horbury, Wakefield.
Trading Standards started to receive complaints from his customers in 2011.
Many said they had responded to flyers through their doors and had been visited by Cooper, who took measurements and asked for a deposit.
But he would then produce a string of excuses about why he had failed to do the work within the agreed six to eight-week timescale.
According to Trading Standards his victims, who were spread across West and South Yorkshire, included three from Leeds and six in Wakefield.
Pensioner Mary Aston, of Oulton, said she got in touch with Cooper after receiving one of his flyers, offering a VAT-free kitchen, in 2011.
“He came out and showed me some samples. He was a perfect gentleman. I didn’t think there was anything amiss,” she said.
But after taking £400 as a deposit and promising that the work would be carried out within weeks, Cooper then repeatedly told her he was having problems with employees or simply failed to answer her phone calls.
“I started to smell a rat,” Mrs Aston, 62, said.
She initially contacted police and then Trading Standards officers, who told her about their investigations.
“I was so annoyed at being conned,” she said. “I’m not usually gullible. But he seemed very professional.”
Cooper, of Springwood Hall Gardens, Huddersfield, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to running a company with the intention of defrauding creditors.
He was given bail, with conditions not to take any more money from would-be clients, and will be sentenced later this month.
Mr Lodge said: “This case just goes to show that consumers need to be wary of responding to doorstep flyers and should make proper checks before handing over any money.”