Aemilius Cupero News:
A scammer from Wales who raked in more than £800,000 from 61 people for work that was never done has finally been exposed after an agonising wait for his victims.
Two of the victims of Brian Tutton’s defunct London-based company Contemporary Homes Improvements Ltd have spoken about their wait for justice after Tutton and his two accomplices were sentenced last week for conspiracy to defraud.
Tutton, 62, approached victims on websites such as ratedpeople.com where homeowners advertised their homes for work they wanted done, but he never laid a brick and customers claim he never had any intention of doing so.
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The stories of the victims followed a similar pattern. After selling their services and convincing the customers by showing them a show home which they actually hadn’t done any work to at all, the customers paid hefty deposits. Despite their best efforts to get in touch customers would then gradually be unable to contact Tutton and his accomplices – salesman Scott Baker, 50, and fake architect David Gogo, 30 – before customers were eventually informed the company had gone into administration.
To carry out the fraud the company made itself appear legitimate by setting itself up on Companies House and creating a virtual address in Covent Garden.
In order to garner confidence, the company would remind each victim that they had protection afforded to them under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
In total 61 victims lost a combined £831,170 through the fraud.
Diana Wright, 69, from Middlesex, says she lost more than £13,000 which she never got back as she didn’t pay the money on a credit card. She said while she had done the appropriate research, she was still left feeling “ashamed” after falling for the scam.
What made the story even more believable was that Tutton had another accomplice – Louise Shiangkwang, 50 – who showed people around her house under the pretence that it was a show home to laud the company’s work.
Shiangkwang pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced on Monday to 22 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years and 160 hours of community service.
Ms Wright explained: “I was due to have a kitchen extension in 2017 and we had two quotations – but the other person had other projects and we didn’t want to wait too long.
“As a new company they also said they’d offer a discounted study case price. That meant if we chose them we could get money off if we agreed to show our home to others afterwards for them.
“Contemporary Home Improvements portrayed themselves as a big company and said they had their own architects who would produce drawings and planning permissions. We thought that was great and they ticked all of our boxes.
“By May 2017 they’d somehow been granted certification from the Federation of Master Builders and then they went on to target more people.”
A spokesperson for the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said: “This company was briefly in membership between May and September 2017, before being expelled swiftly by the FMB Standards Committee after a number of customer complaints were received.
“Following this case, a review of our membership criteria and processes was undertaken, with new measures introduced, including enhanced ID checks and online review searches.
“Conscious of increasingly sophisticated attempts to commit fraud, the FMB, like other organisations, takes every reasonable measure to protect the public.”
Ms Wright continued: “Within a short period of time they managed to acquire a lot of deposits between 25 to 30%.
“A week before the building was due to start the contact was getting less and less and I kept trying to phone them to discuss the work. The communication slowly became slack. Then we received an email from the architect to say the company had been put into liquidation.
“Alarm bells started ringing then. It had happened so fast from February to being liquidated in September.
“I contacted the bank and said I think I’ve been scammed, but I couldn’t get any help because I wasn’t protected under section 75. It was true – there was nothing I could do.
“I felt so alone, ashamed, like an idiot because I’d told all my neighbours about the building work. I didn’t dare then tell them that I’d been scammed.”
Angie Brigdon, who paid £30,000 for an extension and says she was reassured by the company’s FMB membership, said she broke down in court when asked about the impact the affair had on her life.
Ms Brigdon described Shiangkwang as appearing as a “nice” and “friendly” woman when she showed them around her kitchen which had actually been designed and constructed by a neighbour.
She added: “There are still so many people out of pocket. There is no compensation for them. The four-year wait was worth it. The verdict was good but I don’t feel like justice has been done. We need to get some of these credit card companies to start taking note and hold them accountable so the victims can get their money back.”
Tutton, Baker and Gogo were eventually brought to justice following a joint trading standards and Metropolitan Police investigation.
Tutton, who has connections to Newport and other parts of Gwent according to various company directory websites and Companies House, was last week jailed for seven years having been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud at an earlier trial. Baker got four years for fraud after also being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud in an earlier trial, and Gogo was found guilty of fraud and got a suspended sentence and ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work.
Paul Jenkins, from the CPS, said: “These fraudsters duped innocent homeowners into forking out for grand home designs that they never even intended to start. Not one brick was ever laid.
“Brian Tutton was the mastermind behind the scam, while Scott Baker acted as his right-hand man. David Gogo presented as the company’s qualified architect when, in fact, he was not at all qualified.
“During the trial a number of the victims gave vital evidence detailing the fraud, and the difficult toll that it had taken on their personal lives and finances.
“This was a long-running and meticulous investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service and Trading Standards, which culminated in convictions.
“Fraud can have a profound effect on the confidence of consumers and the CPS is dedicated to rooting out those to carry out this type of crime so that they can face justice.”
Wendy Martin, director at Trading Standards, said: “These deceitful fraudsters went to great lengths to conceal their dishonest operation behind a glossy facade, enabling them to con trusting homeowners into handing over large sums of money for building work they had no intention of carrying out.”
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