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Six fraudsters jailed for £10.5 million home improvement scam

Six fraudsters who conned elderly residents out of £10.5 million for over-priced and often unnecessary home improvement work have been sentenced to a combined total of 22.5 years at Nottingham Crown Court today (7 September 2023).

Many of the group’s victims were elderly and vulnerable people in their 80s and 90s, with some of the most vulnerable repeatedly and cynically targeted.

Between 2014 and 2018, the fraudsters marketed and sold home improvement services via multiple companies*, most often selling exterior wall and roof coating products they falsely claimed were ‘guaranteed’ to cure damp and significantly reduce heating bills.

The turnover of the businesses was £10.5 million. Initial contact was made with victims from a company call centre.

Following the initial cold call, victims were visited by a sales rep in their home, where they were subjected to scare tactics and pressure selling.

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These included scare tactics about the condition of the customer’s property and the risks of not agreeing to sign a contract.

62 victims were identified, with many reporting feeling pressured into making a decision on the spot for a “today only” so-called bargain, whereas in reality, the price had been grossly inflated. The fraudsters refused to refund customers’ money when they cancelled within their cancellation period.

Jason Rowan (51) of Town End Road, Draycott, Stephen Tomlinson (55) of Dorchester Avenue, Derby, David Beeson (53) of Bracknell Drive, Alvaston, Derby, Christopher Simpson (58) of Erdington Hall Road, Birmingham, Bohdan Zacharko (69)of High Holborn, London and Philip Eremenko (54) of Thistledown Road, Clifton were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud under the Criminal Law Act 1977 at Nottingham Crown Court on 28th June 2023. Stephen Tomlinson, Jason Rowan and Bohdan Zacharko were also found guilty of fraudulent trading under the Companies Act 2006, and Jason Rowan was also found guilty of offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The sentences handed down were as follows:

  • Jason Rowan – 7 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for 10 years.
  • Stephen Tomlinson – 4.5 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for 5 years.
  • David Beeson – 3 years imprisonment.
  • Christopher Simpson – 3 years imprisonment.
  • Bohdan Zacharko – 2.5 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a director for 5 years.
  • Philip Eremenko – 2.5 years imprisonment.

All six will serve half of their sentences with the remainder served under licence.

The six defendants were prosecuted following an investigation led by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team East Midlands, hosted by Nottinghamshire County Council, and supported by Derbyshire Constabulary and Derbyshire County Council Trading Standards.

Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“Elderly and vulnerable victims were cruelly targeted and pressured into agreeing to buy products they were wrongly assured would save them money on their energy bills.

“I congratulate the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team East Midlands and everyone who supported the investigation for stopping this fraud. These sentences send a strong message that fraudulent techniques will not be tolerated.

“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.”

Councillor John Cottee, Cabinet Member for Communities at Nottinghamshire County Council, said:

“We would like to thank all the victims who came forward and worked with our investigators to help bring these unscrupulous conmen to trial. These sentences send a strong message to fraudsters that this type of activity will not be tolerated.

“We always advise 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 provide services that you do not need.”

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