Following investigation by the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) Trading Standards supported by the PPP Joint Case Management Unit, on the 12 October 2018, at Reading Crown Court, Billy Sean Cole (35 years old) of Hawthorne Crescent, Blackwater, Camberley, pleaded guilty to one offence of fraudulent trading contrary to the Companies Act 2006 and six offences of money laundering contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Cole was sentenced to six years imprisonment for the offence of forming a company for the purpose of committing fraud which was reduced to 54 months following a guilty plea when he appeared at an earlier hearing at Reading Crown Court. He also pleaded guilty four charges of money laundering for which he received a two year sentence to be run concurrently and two charges of money laundering for which he received a three year sentence to be run concurrently.
Cole, who formerly trading as City Guttering and Roofing Ltd, cold-called at the three homes of his elderly victims (two in Bracknell and one in Kingston-upon-Thames) in 2016 and 2017. The work was found by expert witnesses to be often unnecessary, carried out to a poor standard and grossly overcharged. The work would often start as either being free or for as little as £100 but soon escalated over a few months when Cole fabricated claims to have found other problems with their homes. One victim who hesitated about continuing with the works was advised that if he did not continue it would not pass building regulations and that he would not receive a City Guttering Guarantee.
In one case the victim was charged £200,000. The work was later valued by a surveyor instructed by Trading Standards at just £26,000. The only paperwork the victim received was a business card. In total Mr Cole charged a total of £375,000 for the building works. The monies Mr Cole took represented the life savings of all three individuals and the Court was told there had been a real impact on one victims’ health following the crimes.
Cole incorporated City and Guttering Roofs Ltd on the 13 January 2016 with him as the sole director as a vehicle through which to perpetrate the fraud. He also consistently and deliberately failed to inform victims they had a legal right to cancel the suggested building works as required by law.
Cllr Iain McCracken, Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee said, “This is an extremely serious case as has been reflected in the lengthy immediate custodial sentence. There was a loss of a large amount of money and there was a high impact on the lives of the victims. Tackling doorstep crime remains one the Partnership’s highest priorities. An investigation will now take place to identify if any assets can be recovered.”
The Public Protection Partnership is a shared service of Bracknell Forest Council, West Berkshire Council and Wokingham Borough Council and delivers trading standards, environmental health and licensing functions.