£140,000 rogue trader targeted pensioners

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The Independent Online

A rogue trader who targeted elderly people and forced them to pay for substandard work on their houses in a £143,000 fraud was jailed for five years and three months today.

The prison sentence for Mark Cooper is believed to be the longest ever handed out for a trading standards prosecution.

Cooper, 44, would cold-call the pensioners and then bamboozle them to have work carried out they did not need or was substandard, Guildford Crown Court in Surrey was told.

The maintenance man committed his crimes in Surrey, East Sussex and Hampshire and even carried on offending while on bail after his arrest in July last year.

Cooper, from Lydia Park, Dunsfold, Surrey, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud and three counts of money laundering.

One 82-year-old woman, from Ewhurst in East Sussex, was forced to hand over £78,000 over six months for driveway repairs that a surveyor said were worthless.

Another woman, aged 88, from Cobham in Surrey, paid Cooper £59,000 over 11 months for roof repairs that would have cost only £3,500.

Surrey Trading Standards team leader Steve Playle, who investigated Cooper, said: "His usual MO was to say his father had carried out work at the address some time ago and he was checking the work.

"Once he got his victims' trust he made up excuses to carry out work that was not needed or that was substandard.

"He would then find more and more excuses to go back and take more money.

"He was aggressive and bamboozled them and many of the victims said they felt frightened by him."

Mr Playle added: "Mr Cooper preyed on the elderly and he groomed them over months and he relentlessly exploited them while he had no skills as a maintenance man.

"We think it's the record jail term in the UK for a trading standards prosecution."

Twelve other charges relating to Cooper were ordered to be left on file by the judge.