FRAUDSTER plumbers yanked the chain of a Warwickshire resident who was charged over £5,000 just to unblock a toilet.
The Birmingham-based conmen were jailed at Stafford Crown Court after Warwickshire Trading Standards shared complaints about them from across the county with their Staffordshire colleagues.
Duane Linton, aged 34, of Wood Lane, Handsworth was company director of Plumb-Tech Plumbing and Heating Ltd, based in Great Barr, Birmingham, and Plumb-Tech Plumbing and Heating 1 Ltd, of Wood Lane, Handsworth. He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, and was jailed for two years and eight months.
Subcontractor Otis Wray, aged 44, of Birdbrook Road, Birmingham was jailed for nine months and ordered to pay £2,000 costs and compensation to victims of £1,113. Peter Hawketts, aged 55, of Vardon Way, Kings Norton was jailed for 16 months and Patrick Thawe, aged 45, of Little Park, Quinton, Birmingham was sentenced to 20 months in jail.
The court heard how two plumbers charged an emergency rate of £672 per hour plus VAT to unblock the toilet, and then returned the following day to do non-emergency work on a soil pipe – again charging the emergency rate.
The total cost for ‘unblocking’ the toilet came to £5,642, of which £2474.70 was paid before Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards were alerted and intervened to stop any further payments.
The plumbing firm advertised in the Yellow Pages as emergency local plumbers that offered OAP discounts.
The investigation revealed that once a call had been made, Linton sent out subcontracted plumbers from Birmingham. Victims were targeted between March 2014 and January 2016.
The court also heard that claims in advertisements were untrue and basic parts were not carried by the plumbers who subsequently took an inordinate amount of time to source them, charging a premium rate.
Speaking after the trial, Warwickshire County Council’s community safety spokesman Coun John Horner said: “I am delighted that Warwickshire Trading Standards were able to work with regional colleagues to bring these men to court. We will continue to take action against rogue traders to protect Warwickshire residents.”
Coun Philip Johnson, Chair of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, added: “Where possible, we would strongly urge residents needing to hire plumbers or other tradesmen to ask their friends, families or work colleagues for personal recommendations and always get at least three quotes.”