Elderly vulnerable consumers to receive compensation following investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act

Wednesday 14 March

Two rogue traders described by a judge as ‘an insult to cowboy builders’, recently jailed for over 4 years each, having been convicted of consumer protection offences, have now been ordered to pay back a total of £71,992.04 of their ill-gotten gains following a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The confiscated sums will be used to compensate the victims in this case.

Paul Towers of Verdun Road, Wibsey, Bradford and Robert Morrison of Lower Crow Nest Drive, Lightcliffe, Halifax who traded as “Resinways the Driveway People Ltd” and “Drive-Ways” in Brighouse were sentenced to 4 years and 3 months imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court on 3rd March 2017 following their conviction for a number of offences under the Consumer Protection from unfair Trading Regulations.

This conviction was secured by the West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT), which is a multi-agency partnership between Trading Standards, West Yorkshire Police, Adult Social Care professionals and supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, with the aim of combating rogue traders who prey on the vulnerable. 

The offending involved:

  • Entering into a contract with a 94 year old man who had a significant visual impairment and was unable to read his contract.
  • Entering into a contract with an 84 year old lady with Alzheimer’s.
  • Telling a customer that she had to pay in full or the men would be pulled off the job when it was only half completed.
  • Failing to refund deposits totalling £4,400 when consumers cancelled their contracts
  • Failing to honour guarantees when consumers complained of defects with their driveways
  • Advertising that their drives were anti-slip when in fact the company knew that customers had fallen due to the slippiness of their drive

Following an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, confiscation orders have been made against each defendant on 9th March 2018 at Leeds Crown Court.

Paul Towers was found to have benefited from criminal conduct to the value of £309,548.71. However he was ordered to pay £65,024.32 which represented the total value of assets he currently holds. An 8 month period of imprisonment was set in default of non-payment.

Robert Morrison was found to have benefited from criminal conduct to a value £303,533.68. However he was ordered to pay £6,967.72 which represented the total value of assets he currently holds. A 3 month period of imprisonment was set in default of non-payment.

Both defendants have been given 3 months to pay the confiscation orders and if either of them come into further assets in the future, the law enables Trading Standards to recover further sums until they have fully repaid their benefit from criminal conduct.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson said: “I am pleased that the victims in this awful case have been compensated through the hard work of the joint investigation within West Yorkshire Trading Standards and prosecutors.

"The callous impact of targeting people for financial exploitation and crime in this way is all too clear and it’s crucial that we protect and support those that are most vulnerable in our communities.

It's pleasing to know that the team I have helped jointly fund and set up, The West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team, has contributed to protecting vulnerable people from these heartless criminals in bringing the offenders to justice.

"The outcomes being making them accountable for their despicable actions as well as retrieving monies through the Proceeds of Crime Act that they gained illegally through exploiting some our most vulnerable residents.”

Linda Davis, Head of the West Yorkshire Exploitation and Abuse Team said: “Many of the victims in this case were elderly and vulnerable with a number of them losing their entire life savings as a result of this unscrupulous rogue trading. However through the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act we have not only been able to recover the money lost by the victims, but have also ensured that the defendants will not financially benefit from their despicable criminal activities.”

The Financial Investigation Team at Trading Standards has been working hard throughout the investigation to retrieve compensation for the victims. As a result of this compensation was awarded to all 17 victims in this case totalling £62,024.90. This recovers the total amount of loss incurred by these victims as a result of this rogue trading offending.

In 2014 Resinways was the most complained about company in the country in the “tarmacking and paving” category. West Yorkshire Trading Standards received complaints that the company failed to refund deposits when they cancelled their contracts, others complained that their driveway was slippy, was sinking, cracking or was breaking up. Customers who complained to Resinways received no positive response from the company despite being given a 20 year guarantee for their drive. When the reputation of Resinways became tarnished Morrison & Towers changed the name of the business to “Drive-Ways” and carried on as before.

Trading Standards officers carried out a search of the company’s Brighouse premises in January 2015. Documentation and mobile phones seized from the premises showed that the company deliberately targeted those aged 60+, the elderly and vulnerable.

Judge Spencer said that Morrison & Towers knew full well the vulnerability of the victims who were old, infirm and suffering from dementia. He told Morrison & Towers that they were motivated by greed, were callous and not only had they breached the Regulations they had also breached common decency. He added that no civilized society should put up with their behaviour.

 

Notes to editors

Press contact

Helen Robinson: Financial Investigation Manager, Contact 0113 393 9911