A ROGUE trader who fleeced vulnerable residents of a Leeds cul-de-sac out of thousands of pounds for shoddy work he failed to complete has been jailed.
Andrew Cunningham, 33, was branded “wicked” as he was given a three-year sentence after a court heard how he targeted elderly and poorly victims.
Cunningham preyed on seven residents in Roxholme Terrace, Chapel Allerton, including one who he met at a church where he was carrying out community punishment work for a series of similar offences.
Leeds Crown Court heard Cunningham’s victims parted with a total of £50,000 for work which was only worth around £20,000.
Around £10,000 of repair work had to be done to correct the damage he and his workmen did to the houses during 2013.
Graham Parkin, prosecuting, said Cunningham ran Britannia Building and Roof Specialists which was not registered for VAT.
Cunningham arranged for thousands of leaflets to be distributed across West Yorkshire which he failed to pay a marketing firm for. The leaflets contained a bogus proprietor’s name and address.
One of the victims from Roxholme Terrace was introduced to Cunningham at church where he talked her into paying £800 to have a fence built and to cut down two tree stumps.
The elderly woman was then told she needed a new roof and a chimney and was persuaded to part with £18,500.
Another victim included a man in his sixties suffering from mental health problems was paid £14,000 after being told his roof was infected with woodworm.
The work was later examined by an expert from West Yorkshire Trading Standards. Debris had been left in the roof space and brick work had been damaged because the re-pointing had been so poor. The value of the work was estimated to be worth only £6,500
The court heard another elderly couple who were targeted were both recovering from cancer.
Mr Parkin said: “This was deliberate targeting of the elderly or the vulnerable.”
Cunningham pleaded guilty to operating a fraudulent business, four offences of fraud and one of carrying out an unfair trading practice. He also pleaded guilty to an offence of theft of a phone which belonged to his estranged wife.
He has previous convictions for carrying out similar rogue trader deceptions
Simon Perkins, mitigating, said: “Mr Cunningham accepts the inevitability of a custodial sentence.”
Mr Perkins said Cunningham committed the offences as he was “thrashing around” trying to stave off insolvency. He was made bankrupt in 2014
The barrister said: “He is an industrious man but he a lousy administrator.”
Jailing Cunningham, Recorder Richard Wright, QC, said: “The people who you took money from were vulnerable, either because they were elderly or unwell or because they had mental health or physical difficulties.
“Once you had people in your grip you turned the screw.
“These were truly wicked offences.”