A "DISHONEST" carpenter defrauded customers out of hundreds of pounds by failing to deliver the goods he had been paid to make.

Carpenter James Thompson took orders for his bespoke beds which he had advertised on websites such as Gumtree.

But instead of spending the money on materials, the 49-year-old used the cash to pay for his living expenses.

When frustrated customers began to chase him, Thompson lied to cover his tracks – even once pretending his delivery driver had been involved in a serious crash to buy time.

Now Thompson has been given a suspended sentence at Southampton Crown Court, after pleading to five counts of fraud against customers in Southampton.

The court heard how Thompson set up his own carpentry business in 2017, using Facebook and Gumtree to advertise his bespoke beds.

Prosecutor Tim Moores said Thompson supplied furniture to a number of customers between March and April 2017.

But he said Thompson, who claimed he had a workshop, but was actually working from his back garden, began to "fob off" customers in February 2018.

The court heard one woman, who ordered a bespoke bunk bed for £250, was told by Thompson that she would not have the item delivered on time as he was "employing more craftsmen".

Mr Moores said said: "On March 23 the woman was told that the she would not get the item as the delivery driver had been involved in a horrific road crash.

"It is clear people were being fobbed off.

"It seems he was behind the curve, so the money he received was being used to pay outstanding bills or to buy materials to make previous orders.

"People would ask for refunds, which he would agree to provide, but he didn't do so. He continues receiving money from customers knowing in fact that he was not in a position to provide the items.

"That's where we say it becomes fraudulent and dishonest."

Mr Moores said Thompson had defrauded customers out of £1610 and owed another customer £770.

Mitigating. Chris Gaiger said Thompson had not intended to defraud his customers.

He said:" He was essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. He was always a job behind.

"He realises now he should have stopped the business."

In sentencing Thompson, of Park Field Road, Ruskington, Lincolnshire, Judge Peter Henry said: "You are a carpenter who is capable of producing individual items for people, but on the other hand you are a very poor businessman who has allowed himself to become dishonest.

"You were taking orders to pay for orders. Things were bound to go wrong and they did in this case.

"You have got to understand that when you start a business you have a responsibility to customers and not to act in a fraudulent way."