A prolific rogue trader has been jailed after repeatedly targeting elderly residents living in areas including Romney Marsh, Swale and Medway.
Tony Saunders tricked and coerced several pensioners into paying for unnecessary work to their properties, amid demands for cash payments totalling thousands of pounds.
Between February and April 2021, Saunders and an accomplice cold called the homes of victims and warned vital repairs were needed to roofs and chimneys.
They wore clothing and used a van emblazoned with logos for ‘ATS Paving and Building Ltd’. The business appeared to victims to be legitimate, with quality assurances provided on a leaflet handed to them, including claims of Check-a-trade accreditations.
The reality was very different. Victims were given quotes which rapidly escalated and any work carried out was substandard and often unfinished.
In March 2021, a 76-year-old man initially agreed to pay Saunders and his accomplice £7,000 for roof repairs to his Faversham home. After work commenced, he was met with demands for £25,000.
The victim became suspicious and challenged the men, following which Saunders threatened to empty a skip onto his driveway and remove all materials if he wasn’t paid.
In the following month, Kent Police was called to reports Saunders was operating fraudulently in Istead Rise, Gravesend, where two elderly neighbours, both aged in their 80s, had been scammed.
Saunders, aged 23, of Spade Lane, Hartlip was arrested at one of their addresses on 7 April, which also led to a Citroen Berlingo van being seized.
An investigation established he had also been operating in areas of Chatham, Sittingbourne and New Romney.
Saunders was also investigated for a separate case in 2019, when an unknown suspect knocked at the door of an elderly woman in Chatham and claimed to be from Trading Standards.
The person had knowledge the woman was a previous victim to rogue trading and informed her the perpetrators had been arrested and that she was now entitled to compensation.
The victim, aged in her 80s, was later contacted by telephone and told before she received the compensation, she would first need to pay for court fees and staff.
Between 4 and 16 April 2019, she made nine withdrawals from her bank account, totalling almost £30,000.
Saunders stopped her on multiple occasions whilst she was driving home from the bank, in order to take the cash from her.
Saunders pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court to six counts of fraud by false representation with a further two counts taken into consideration, and four counts linked to money laundering.
He also admitted a further, unrelated, charge of affray. This was linked to his involvement in a fight in Herne Bay, in July 2020.
On Friday 25 February 2022, Saunders was sentenced to four years and ten months’ imprisonment.
Preyed upon vulnerable
Detective Sergeant Adam Stallard, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘Saunders preyed upon the elderly and vulnerable under the guise of operating a legitimate business. He invented or exaggerated fears related to the integrity and safety of victims’ roofs and chimneys, often demanding instant cash payments for so called urgent repairs. ‘Site surveys were later completed by a genuine chartered surveyor at the home addresses of victims. All of these surveys found that the works were mostly unnecessary, were to an extremely poor standard and were substantially overpriced. ‘It is pleasing to see that justice has caught up with Saunders and he his rightly behind bars. We will now use legislation contained under the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure he doesn’t continue to benefit from his crimes when he is released from prison.’