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Rogue builder conned elderly victims out of £130,000, court hears

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A builder who hugely overcharged vulnerable and elderly women to pocket nearly £130,000 for work around their homes has been jailed for nearly five years.

Simon Doherty cold called the women to offer his services for small, cheap jobs he persuaded them needed doing. But once he had earned their trust, the conman convinced them more extensive work needed to be done and ratcheted up the price.

The 29-year-old cleaned out the life savings of a woman in her 80s in Halesowen and targeted two other households in Sutton Coldfield between 2017 and 2019.

He had more than £100,000 in his personal bank account on more than one occasion during that period – and investigators discovered he had enjoyed a lavish trip to America while submitting sick notes in 2019 to say he could not attend court to face the music.

Doherty, of Hodgkinson Road, Kirkby in Ashfield, pleaded guilty to fraud following an investigation by Dudley Council’s trading standards team. He appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court today, where he was sentenced to 56 months in prison.

The court heard the rogue builder traded for the most part during the period under the business name Distinctive Paving Building Solutions Ltd.

Doherty charged Valerie Martin - a woman in her 80s from Gower Road, Halesowen - £26,500 for six days work in 2017. It included cleaning and sealing her drive, installing a step and a shed, and block paving work. But an independent surveyor ruled the work should have only cost £6,228.75 – an overcharge of £20,271.25.

In 2019 he targeted Margaret Morrall, known as Brenda, and friends Madeline Partridge and Margaret Butler in Sutton Coldfield.

Brenda, who was 91, was overcharged nearly £15,000 according to the surveyor after handing over £23,500 for repairs to her roof, porch and patio. Doherty had initially knocked on her door offering to cement down two roof tiles he said were loose, quoting just £25.

The conman moved on, calling at the home Madeline and Margaret had shared for more than 35 years in March 2019.

In the months after – and while he was due to be attending court following a summons by Dudley Trading Standards for the offences against Valerie Martin and Brenda Morrall – he convinced Madeline and Margaret he was a “fellow Christian”.

He brought holy water and wine to the house as gifts. But Doherty charged the women more than £79,000 for work the surveyor said should have only cost them £24,910 – an overcharge of £54,590.

In total, the court heard, the conman pocketed at least £129,500 for the work at the three homes – a sum which the surveyor said was an overcharge of nearly £90,000.

Doherty was also disqualified from being a director of a company for seven years and a criminal behaviour order was put in place. It prevents him from cold calling, carrying out any work without providing a written quote, carrying out any work before 14 days after providing a written quote and instructing others to do any of these specified acts until a further court order is made.

The council offers a list of approved trades people to carry out maintenance work. Visit www.dudley.gov.uk and search fix-a-home.

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