Landscape gardener conned customers out of thousands for work never started in ‘spree of fraud and deception’
A light-fingered landscape gardener who conned customers out of thousands of pounds for work he never started has avoided being jailed.
Allen Young, 41, of Lambton Drive, Hetton, was handed a suspended sentence for raking in over £7,300 in deposit payments – then scarpering. Young used the money – described as from a “spree of fraud and deception” - to get his sole trader business through tough times during Covid lockdown, a court heard.
He duped three victims, aged 18 to 57, in Washington, Peterlee and Houghton, between March and July last year. And he swindled a 73-year-old pensioner from Choppington, Northumberland, who said in a statement the cash loss had left his savings depleted. The fraudster took deposits of £3,100, £2,125, £1,472 and £1,400, although one victim had £736 repaid by his bank.
Young wept when impact statements about his crimes were read to magistrates at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court. They jailed jobless Young for 16 weeks but suspended the sentence for 18 months – and ordered him to repay the money at just £5 a week.
Sunderland City Council prosecutor Ian Palmer said: “The defendant took money from them and failed to complete any work or return the money taken. There are four victims. They cross geographical boundaries. He offered a variety of excuses for not doing the work.”
Mr Palmer said Young’s first fraud was against a woman in Teal Farm Way, Washington, who located him via an online recommendation. He quoted £2,880 for landscaping work and was handed half that as a deposit after warning he could not start without it.
His next quote was to a new-build homeowner in Appletreewick Close, Houghton, in April. The man handed over £2,125 for artificial grass to be laid and decking installed, but again work never began. And in May, Young took a £3,100 deposit from a householder in Elliot Road, Peterlee, who wanted garden improvements. Two months after the job failed to start at its planned June date, his worried victim contacted trading standards.
Young’s final con came when he quoted a pensioner almost £3,000 for grass and hedge work in Stakeford Terrace, Choppington. He took a £1,400 deposit, half of which the householder was reimbursed by their bank, and did not start the scheme.
Young pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation and three of being a trader knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice.
Paul McAlindon, defending, said Young had not set out to defraud but business struggles during the pandemic had got on top of him. He insisted his client had received previously positive reviews from satisfied customers, which had led his victims to contact him.
Mr McAlindon added: “Circumstances that occurred at the time led to these offences. This all began when the country was under lockdown. He is genuinely ashamed of himself and is genuinely sorry for what has happened to these people.”
Young was jailed for four weeks for each fraud, to run consecutively and suspended, and must pay £7,361 in compensation and complete 15 rehabilitation days. Magistrates, who said he had committed a “spree of fraud and deception”, imposed no separate penalty for the other offences and no court costs.