Monday 4 March 2024
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Nottingham

Fraudster conned elderly residents in £1.5 million energy and security scam

A fraudster who promised energy savings and complete home security through his products and services has been found guilty of conning elderly and vulnerable residents out of £1.5million.

Robin McDonald, aged 45, of Burton-on-Trent, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation along with charges of fraudulent trading following a five-month trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

The trial took place following an investigation led by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team in the East Midlands hosted by Nottinghamshire County Council. The team is supported by all trading standards authorities within the East Midlands region and represents their collective interests. This case also featured additional support from Derbyshire County Council Trading Standards.

More than 200 victims gave evidence during the trial, which heard how between 2014 and 2015, McDonald had carried out a widespread campaign of fraud and mis-selling through the businesses Sunpower Renewables Ltd and Stirling Technologies Ltd trading as Proshield Alarms.

Sunpower Renewables sold products including solar panels, air source heat pumps, and thermo-dynamic water heating systems to victims, claiming that they would receive a financial benefit through energy savings, that the cost of works was funded by the Government and that they would be compensated through being able to sell surplus energy generated back to the grid.

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The court heard how sales representatives from Sunpower Renewables would use bullying tactics to secure contracts, often staying in the homes of victims for many hours to pressure them into signing contracts for works they didn’t want or need at significantly inflated prices.

Works were then carried out to a poor standard and did not deliver on the energy-saving promises made at the time of sale. In some cases, solar panels were installed onto rooves which could not take their weight, creating the risk of structural collapse. Sunpower Renewables then failed to respond and rectify the works after victims complained.

Proshield Alarms told customers ‘You’ll be in safe hands 24 hours a day, 365 days a year’ as part of their marketing to sell home security products including Passive Infra-Red (PIR) detectors, window and door sensors, emergency medical buttons/pendants, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors.

Victims were misled into believing that these products were linked to a system which would guarantee a response from the emergency services in the event of it being triggered.
McDonald will now be sentenced in March.

A second defendant was found not guilty by the jury on the same charges.

Roy Hancher, aged 54, of Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and Nicola Mather, aged 44, of Derby, pleaded guilty to money laundering prior to the trial.

Councillor Scott Carlton, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Communities at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “The guilty verdict in this case is a great result and highlights the vital work of our Trading Standards team who work to keep residents safe from fraudsters.

“In this case, the defendant and his businesses deliberately targeted the elderly and those living in vulnerable situations, using dishonest and coercive sales tactics and lies about the quality of their products and the benefit they would bring to their victims.

“I would like to thank all the victims who came forward and worked with our investigators to help bring this case to trial.

Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards Service always advises residents to be alert to cold calling, never to trade or buy at the door and to always report any concerns. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t and you should never be afraid to close the door on scammers and those who turn up out of the blue offering to fix problems you didn’t know or think that you had.”

Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “Homeowners living in vulnerable situations – such as older people living alone – were cynically targeted and pressurised into agreeing to home improvement works that they didn’t want or need, often at highly inflated prices. The criminal behind the fraud deliberately pursued more vulnerable victims and spent hours pressurising them into signing contracts using aggressive bullying tactics to line his own pockets, before delivering shoddy work that was sub-standard and could even have caused more damage.

“I’m pleased the jury reached this verdict and hope that the sentences handed down later this year will bring a semblance of justice to the victims involved. If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a fraud like this, you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.”

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