A rogue builder who was paid £25,000 by customers left their roofs unfinished and falsely claimed he had cancer, a court has heard.
Joseph Gardener, 35, took thousands from nine different clients but carried out work that was well below standard or wasn’t completed.
The roofer, from East Avenue in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, took almost £25,000 in total from his customers.
He pleaded guilty at Teesside Crown Court to nine counts of fraud between August 2019 and December 2020.
One property was left with tiles falling off the roof on to a driveway, while another client had a hole in his bedroom ceiling.
Gardener, of J&J Roofing, took payments for materials and kept asking customers to pay the next instalment despite failing to turn up to carry out the arranged work.
The court heard he gave his clients a variety of excuses, even lying to one that he had cancer.
Gardener was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and an order with a 30 day rehabilitation requirement.
He was also ordered to repay half of what he had been paid - £12,350 - in monthly instalments of £750 to his customers.
Judge Anthony Hawks told Gardener: "This is a sad case, sad for the nine people who have had their lives affected disastrously.
“None of your customers are people of significant means. You, through a mixture of fraud, dishonesty and incompetence woefully abused your customers' trust.”
The court heard one of Gardener’s victims was driven to a breakdown after the roofer failed to finish work on his house.
In a statement, the homeowner told the court that he had “worked solidly for three months, 12 hours a day with no socialising to earn the money for a new roof and loft conversion”.
But Gardener failed to turn up on 17 January 2020 to start the work, despite the fact the materials had been paid for.
After Gardener started the work a week later, the victim found a hole in his bedroom ceiling.
On 10 February, the homeowner went up on to the roof at 3am as the tarpaulin left by Gardener had come off.
When water started streaming down the walls and light fittings, the homeowner was forced to move back in with his parents and hire another builder to redo the roof.
Commenting on Gardener’s work, this second builder described it as “the worst job he'd ever seen”, the court heard.
Gardener used a number of different excuses to stall his clients, such as telling them his tools had been stolen, that his wife had been rushed to hospital, that he had no internet connection and that his vehicle had suffered a flat tyre.
The court heard that Gardener’s life had been “in catastrophe for a number of years” and that he hadn’t coped well with his the death of his father, from whom he inherited the roofing business.
The judge told him: “You should have realised in the state you were in you were not capable of carrying out this work.
“Sending you to prison would mean you are unable to offer any compensation.
"But I've got to be realistic, it's better you continue to pay at a level you can afford than making unrealistic offers to compensate.”
Stockton Council’s Steve Nelson said: “Mr Gardener’s actions have caused his customers significant financial and emotional distress.
“I hope the suspended sentence, rehabilitation days and compensation order handed to him will serve as a lesson that traders must take their legal responsibilities seriously or face the consequences in court.”
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