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April 16, 2012 - 16:20


Joint work by South West Scambusters and the police have led to two rogue traders who laid shoddy driveways and tricked people from Cornwall to Gloucestershire being found guilty in Bristol Crown Court today (20th March).


The two, William Birch and Frederick Stevens from Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud members of the public, the Department of Work & Pensions and the Revenue & Customs, contrary to Common Law.  They will be sentenced after a pre sentence report has been considered. 


 Trading as Birch Works Limited Civil Engineering & Trenching Contractors and Roadwork’s Civil Engineering & Trenching Contractors, they claimed to specialise in the laying of gravel chippings or asphalt tar macadam. In fact the work was of very poor quality and they failed to give customers their statutory right of a cooling off period.


Following cold calls, customers were deceived into agreeing to work being carried out through a combination of making false claims and often using logos and high visibility clothing which closely resembled those used by Local Authorities” said Alan Evans who manages the Bristol based South West Scambuster team who led the investigation with Gloucestershire Police.


The work carried out by the subjects was of very poor standard, with little or no ground preparation, was very expensive and, despite the legal requirement to do so, customers were rarely provided with a notice of cancellation and seven day cooling off period.


The South West Scambusters began the investigation in May 2009, following a referral from Avon and Somerset Police when two farms in the Somerset area had been targeted, together with a number of private dwellings in the East Devon area.


“This is a brilliant result and demonstrates how by working together across boundaries, Local Authority staff and police can really tackle and stop widespread abuse like this,” said Cllr Guy Poultney, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods for Bristol City Council who employ the team on behalf of fifteen Local Authority Trading Standards services in the South West.


“This was a very difficult and protracted 3 year investigation undertaken by South West Scambusters, Gloucestershire Police and local Trading Standards Officers into the criminal activities of a group of prolific rogue traders who preyed on isolated vulnerable people across a vast area of the South West” said Alan Evans.


“I would like to thank all the law enforcement agencies involved in this very complex case. We will not tolerate people preying on vulnerable people within our communities. We will take the strongest action possible to bring these people to justice and strip them of all their assets they received from their criminal activities”.


The South West Scambusters Team is a proactive Trading Standards Investigation team targeting cross-border fraud in the supply of goods and services. It is hosted by Bristol City Council on behalf of the fifteen local authority Trading Standards services in the South West. It is part of a network of regional Scambuster Teams covering England, Scotland and Wales and is funded by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).


Further information from Vicky O’Loughlin on 0774746 0496