TWO ruthless company directors of a Brighouse firm used sick and vulnerable pensioners as “meal tickets” in a shocking rogue trading scam which netted them more then TWO MILLION pounds.
Robert Morrison and Paul Towers were jailed today after they used heavy-handed tactics to prey on dementia suffers and the blind into handing over cash for sub-standard work.
Leeds Crown Court heard their firm, called Resinways, was the most complained about company to Trading Standards in the whole country for tarmacking and paving.
Morrison and Towers sophisticated scam involved them purchasing data from marketing companies so that they could target wealthy, elderly victims.
Personal details were obtained of 5,000 people aged over 60 in the Yorkshire area who had a high level of income based on their council tax bracket.
Morrison and Towers used this information to make cold calls to homeowners and try to sell to them on the doorstep.
James Lake, prosecuting, said: “Work they had carried out had generated complaint after complaint due to its poor quality and the company’s dubious business practices.
“The guarantees they had offered to customers were not honoured.
“The company had no intention of properly honouring the guarantees they had given.”
Morrison and Towers changed the company name to Driveways in September 2014 after complaints continued to increase.
Trading Standards took action in January 2015, seizing all the business documents that were available at their business premises in Brighouse.
The court heard the content of some of the documents were “shocking”.
Mr Lake said a comments section next to potential customers provided an insight into the victims they wanted to target.
Comments included terms such as ‘raver’ (raving mad), ‘Alzheimer’s’, ‘gimmer’ (elderly person), ‘dementia’ and ‘blind man’.
The prosecutor said: “Rather than taking care to avoid entering into contracts with vulnerable and elderly people, Morrison and Towers sought out these people as customers as they were easy targets.”
Morrison 35, of Lower Crow Nest Drive, Lightcliffe, pleaded guilty to 12 offences contrary to the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations.
Towers, 37, of Verdun Road, Wibsey, Bradford. pleaded guilty to ten offences. Both men were jailed for four years three months.
Offences also involved them failing to return deposits to customers who cancelled withing a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period’, carrying out substandard work and failing to respond to requests to repair it.
Other abuses included displaying a false business address and demanding full payment before completion of work and threatening to pull out of a job if payment was not made immediately.
Jailing them, judge James Spencer, QC, said: “In this day and age, this kind of commercial activity is sometimes given the sobriquet of ‘cowboy builders’.
“Well, that would be an insult to cowboys I’m afraid because this was much worse.
“You deceived and cajoled and imposed yourselves and took advantage of these people and it was really quite a disgraceful period in your lives.
“You now have to pay the penalty for that because no civilised society will put up with this - none!
“The only way people like you will learn that this is not acceptable is if the penalty is significant.”
Morrison and Towers “simply didn’t care” how vulnerable their victims were.
On one occasion, a 94-year-old Second World War RAF veteran was duped out of £4,900 after signing paperwork despite being blind.
Morrison also persuaded a couple who were blind and had Alzheimer’s to pay over £6,000 to have work done on their driveways.
The pair distributed leaflets and paid for adverts containing blatantly misleading information claiming to have 40 years experience in the tarmacking a paving business.
In reality Morrison, a former mental health nurse, and Towers, who worked in double glazing, had worked together for just one week before setting up Resinways.
Morrison also left a false review of the company online in a bid to generate more income.
Mr Lake said: “They simply didn’t care who they contracted with. Towers loved vulnerable customers. They were meal tickets to him. He even told his salesmen that he loved ‘Alzheimer’s leads.”
Between 2012 and 2015, two and a half million pounds was cashed at a money shop in Wakefield through an account operated by Towers and Morrison.
Not a single penny in income tax was paid for the work done.
By operating in this way the company had no visible monetary assets It also made tracing the money very difficult.
The defendants told customers that they would only accept payment for work by cash or by cheque.
The pair also joked about the how vulnerable some of their victims were.
In one text sent by Morrison to Towers, he wrote: “I feel tight if it sells but I need the money.”
The court heard how many of the victims had suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of the offending.
Others said they felt foolish after being conned by the pair and were feared retribution after making complaints