A cowboy builder who conned home-owners out of more than £2 million by failing to complete work on their properties, including leaving one a roofless shell, has been jailed for five and a half years.
Danny Shea, of Royal Drive, Bordon, was sentenced at Winchester Crown Court after pleading guilty to nine fraud charges and one of fraudulent trading.
The offences involved homes in the Thursley, Chiddingfold, Tadworth and Chertsey areas of Surrey and Farnborough, Bordon and Grayshott in Hampshire, between 2007 and 2010.
The South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (Serocu), which investigated Shea, found that the 48-year-old had carried out renovations and rebuilding worth £2.1 million which was not completed.
Victims Martin Wells and his wife lost about £150,000 in payments to Shea, whom they employed to renovate their bungalow in Grayshott.
The property before work began
Mr Wells said Shea removed the roof of the property, leaving it an uninhabitable shell, but never completed the work. The couple were left living in a caravan in their garden through two winters.
Mr Wells told the BBC: ''As the weeks went by, there was not much work being done, no materials were arriving on site. I would be on the phone to Shea every day, sometimes several times a day. 'When is the timber arriving? When are the bricks arriving?' He would always have a very plausible excuse.
''We were stuck in the caravan with a house with no roof on it. We were stupid to the extent that we gave him money. We probably lost £150,000 but we got to a stage where we had to believe this was going to happen.''
Detective Sergeant Ian Ball said: ''For three years Shea systematically defrauded customers who engaged him to carry out building work. He claimed to be going to carry out work to a proper standard and finish the respective jobs.
''In fact he had no intention of doing either. After an original down-payment, he would obtain further money, again with no intention of doing the work properly or sometimes at all.
The house later on
''He would provide an initial quote, followed by a request for money upfront for labour and materials. He would provide references from customers satisfied with early work on their projects and suggested extra work which could be carried out.
''Further requests for payment would be made but work would slow and stop. There would be re-negotiation but by then the victims were sucked in and just wanted to have the work finished so would agree to the new demands and even pay suppliers direct for materials.
''Shea would meanwhile make token efforts at work just to keep them on the hook. Then he would disappear, leaving unfinished and sub-standard work. The cost of remedial work sometimes ran into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
''However, working with partners in many agencies and with the CPS, we were able to support the victims and get the evidence that finally enabled us to bring Shea to justice. after an investigation that has now spanned three years.''
The fraudulent trading related to theft of plant and construction machinery and motor vehicles, which had been unlawfully sold. Equipment worth more than £121,000 is still unaccounted for.