Cowboy builder who scammed 50 families out of £650,000 is jailed for five ... trends now

Cowboy builder who scammed 50 families out of £650,000 is jailed for five ... trends now
Cowboy builder who scammed 50 families out of £650,000 is jailed for five ... trends now

Cowboy builder who scammed 50 families out of £650,000 is jailed for five ... trends now

A cowboy builder who scammed more than 50 families out of nearly £650,000 has been jailed for five years and called a 'thorough menace' by a judge.

Lawrence Martin 'took advantage' of vulnerable customers including one woman who was having work done to help her dying father-in-law, a court heard.

The 'fundamentally dishonest' 36-year-old pressured clients into paying tens of thousands of pounds in deposits to ensure work could begin, before declaring more work needed doing as costs soared.

One couple lost more than £110,000 as a result of his fraud, while dozens of heartbroken victims were left with wrecked homes and empty bank accounts as their life savings were cleaned out in a campaign of fraud that lasted a 'very long time'.

Martin - who had no official roofing qualifications but is trained as an electrician - allegedly told one customer 'you got more chance of winning the lottery' than getting a refund.

Over a nearly five year period, the father-of-four left customers across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in tears, with some even having to change the locks to stop him returning, the court heard.

Were you scammed by Lawrence Martin? Email: [email protected]

Lawrence Martin (pictured) 'took advantage' of vulnerable customers including one woman who was having work done to help her dying father-in-law, a court heard

Lawrence Martin (pictured) 'took advantage' of vulnerable customers including one woman who was having work done to help her dying father-in-law, a court heard

Damage and poor work at customer Chrissie Bacon's home that Lawrence Martin worked on

Damage and poor work at customer Chrissie Bacon's home that Lawrence Martin worked on

The damage from at customer Chrissie Bacon's house

The damage from at customer Chrissie Bacon's house

Martin was jailed for five years for his 'disgraceful conduct' at Southampton Crown Court. Pictured: Chrissie Bacon's house

Martin was jailed for five years for his 'disgraceful conduct' at Southampton Crown Court. Pictured: Chrissie Bacon's house 

The work that he did complete was allegedly so shoddy, many cancelled the rest, demanded a refund and had to fork out thousands more on professionals to fix the damage he had done.

After admitting two counts of fraudulent trading and one of fraud Martin did not react as he was jailed for five years for his 'disgraceful conduct' at Southampton Crown Court.

Martin will serve half of his sentence before being released on licence.

He was also made subject of a 10-year Criminal Behaviour Order, barring him from any kind of building or roofing work. He will however be allowed to practise as an electrician upon his release.

Prosecutor Ethu Crorie told the court his offending was split in two periods - while sole director of Eastleigh-based firm CLJ roofing and when he continued with his own personal bank account, between January 2018 and October 2022.

His vulnerable clients included a widow, those with disabilities, and the family of a terminally ill man.

'In brief, Martin quoted for building/roofing works at a property,' he said.

'He gave the impression that he was a successful and professional trader.

'Pressure was placed on customers to agree to the work quickly, potential dates for starting the work were suggested but would only be available if a deposit was paid.

'Once the work started, frequently, he would identify further works and the costs would grow.

'Customers felt obliged to agree to these additional works for a number of reasons including the fact that the work had already been started and the fact that Martin would state that the work was being done at a discount because he was already on site.

'Customers were also misled with frequent representations about the need to pay for specific materials and items such as scaffolding.

'These materials didn't arrive on site.

The court has ruled that Martin will be allowed to practise as an electrician upon his release. Boarded up windows at Chrissie Bacon's home

The court has ruled that Martin will be allowed to practise as an electrician upon his release. Boarded up windows at Chrissie Bacon's home

Chrissie and Mark Bacon, who spent £44,000 on a garage conversion to house her terminally ill father-in-law, have been left with incomplete work by Martin after hiring him in the summer of 2021. Pictured: Their home

Chrissie and Mark Bacon, who spent £44,000 on a garage conversion to house her terminally ill father-in-law, have been left with incomplete work by Martin after hiring him in the summer of 2021. Pictured: Their home

Martin will serve half of his sentence before being released on licence

Martin will serve half of his sentence before being released on licence

'He also asked for additional payments to cover, for example, workers that needed to be paid and shortfalls to cover him misquoting the job.

'Martin, in truth, was lying about what the money was going to be used for.'

When consumers complained, Martin made excuses including references to the imminent death of his mother, problems with suppliers, workers, other consumers and vehicles.

The work was either not completed or was done so poorly that remedial costs were incurred.

The court heard Martin 'took advantage of the consumers' vulnerability' by stating that if they continued to complain he would walk off the job and refund them money.

He also 'frequently' stated he would be refunding money - but the majority did not receive anything.

'When he did refund people, it was, it seems, only with a view to having them remove negative reviews from various sites,' Mr Crorie added.

Martin, of Southampton, acquired many of his customers through the Rated People website.

The court was read Martin's correspondence with disgruntled customers, which included telling the concerned daughter of an 84-year-old on the Isle of Wight, that 'there is not a chance in hell' of a refund after his botch-up job.

His work was so bad it caused one homeowner's brother to stop talking to him after he recommended Martin's services, the court heard.

One family, who live in Chandler's Ford, were told 'you got more chance of winning the lottery', when they sought a refund of £8,500.

For any that did receive money back -

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