Cowboy builder who conned pensioner out of £42k for measly square of fake grass faces jail as shocking pic reveals job

A COWBOY builder is facing jail time after he scammed a 90-year-old man to pay nearly £60,000 for gardening work.

Micheal Gorman, 46, snared pensioner Roy Wilcox into paying £42,000 for an artificial grass lawn and £12,500 for fresh concrete paving.

Rogue trader Michael Gorman charged Roy Wilcox £56,000 for gardening work


Rogue trader Michael Gorman charged Roy Wilcox £56,000 for gardening workCredit: SWNS

Added fees of £900 and £1,400 covered the chopping down of small trees and a new fence respectively.

Gorman, from Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, took advantage of Mr Wilcox’s age to fleece him for the cash, a court heard.

It added that Gorman’s scam only aroused suspicion when the pensioner’s bank questioned the staggering payments.

Gorman, who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud at Reading Crown Court on January 2 and will appear again in the dock on January 29.

The rogue trader was not jailed immediately to allow him time to arrange care for his ailing mother, who suffers from dementia.

Amber Athill, prosecuting, noted this was “ironic” given Gorman’s offence.

“Mr Wilcox lives alone, has no close family and is inherently vulnerable. The defendant took advantage of this,” the judge said.

“Between November 2021 and April 2022, he dishonestly and gratuitously overcharged him for gardening works.”

Mr Wilcox had been duped by the scammer after he spotted an advertisement for a company called MG Garden and Tree Services in Round and About Magazine, a court heard.

Ms Athill said readers were offered a “free quote with expert advice” and “10 per cent off for OAPs”.

The judge showed the court photographs of Mr Wilcox’s dire living conditions.

Ms Athill said: “It shows how unlikely it was that he would want to spend thousands of pounds on outside works when his inside living conditions were sadly so poor.

“It would be clear to any visitor or tradesman that Mr Wilcox was vulnerable and so an easy target for the defendant to befriend and defraud.”

In a victim impact statement, Mr Wilcox said he felt it was his own fault that he had become a victim of the offence.

He said Gorman was “very friendly and did the work quickly and well”.

Mr Wilcox said: “I trusted he would give me a fair price because I did not know the going rate for such work.

“I did not know of any way to check if the cost was reasonable or not. It is my own fault if I did not look into the matter further.

It comes after one couple who forked out £115,000 on their dream family home have been plunged into debt and left living like nomads for 17 months.

The family‘s life was turned upside down after their rogue builder quit while their hole-filled house was still windowless, damp and uninhabitable.

What to do if you fall foul of a cowboy builder?

Radio broadcaster Clive Holland exposes cowboy builders and told The Sun what homeowners should look out for.

Dodgy suitor

Many of us let our guard down when confronted by a sharply-dressed, smooth-talking salesperson – but they are not always who they appear to be.

“Unfortunately, a cowboy builder doesn’t walk around with a cowboy hat and boots, so they are not always the easiest to spot,” Clive said.

“Looks can be deceiving and while builders should be smartly dressed, sometimes they may have just come from the site or a job.

“They may look a bit messy or their builder’s bum may be on show, and while no one wants to see that, it doesn’t mean they are a bad tradesperson.” 

Be wary of the builder from ‘down the road’

Clive claims most people get lazy and forget to do their due diligence when it comes to arranging renovations and repairs.

This tardiness, he says, is behind many of the unfortunate tales of people being conned out of thousands.

Clive, who presents on Fix Radio, said: “If you’re looking for a builder, don’t immediately trust the person working on a house down the street.

“Go to your local builders’ merchant and ask them for the three best people they know. You’ll be surprised by how helpful they can be.

“The workers they recommend will be solid tradespeople, who are nice and pay the merchant on time – proving they are trustworthy.”

Ask to see their work

Clive explains that “any tradesperson worth their salt” will have worked on similar jobs to the one you are asking them to complete.

“Always ask to see a like-for-like job and then go to visit it to ensure everything is legitimate,” he said.

“If they give you an address don’t be afraid to go and knock on the person’s door and ask them what they thought of the work.

“If they have red rings around their eyes or are in floods of tears, you have definitely found a cowboy builder.”

How to spot fake paperwork

Before hiring any tradesperson for a job it’s important to ensure they are qualified, registered and insured.

Clive said: “Ask for a copy of their liability insurance and proof from official bodies that they have the right skills to complete the job.

“They should be registered with different agencies – call them to ensure they are registered and do have the qualifications to do the work.

“You should also call the underwriters for their liability insurance to make sure it’s still valid.

“If they make an excuse about not having documentation with them don’t hire them until you see it because they could be a rogue trader.”

Always sign a contract

Clive says one of the best protections you can have is a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) document, which outlines the work, materials needed and payment dates.

“A JCT protects you both by giving a start and estimated finish date, as well as the tradesperson’s working hours and when they will take breaks.

“Sit down and go through each stage of the project: itemise everything they need and how much it will cost and both of your expectations.

“It may sound tedious but you’re paying a lot of money – everything from how many planks of wood to the number of doors.”


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