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Rogue trader convicted for damp proof fraud

This news article was published more than a year ago. Some of the information may no longer be accurate.

Published: 14/09/2012

John Coffey, 32, appeared at Northavon Magistrates’ Court on 14 August and pleaded guilty to a fraud offence over a claim he made to Hanham resident Geraldine Parfrey about the need for work on the outside walls of her house.

Following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report, he was sentenced on Wednesday (5 September) to 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to contribute £500 towards the costs of the prosecution.

The case came to light in November 2009 when South Gloucestershire Trading Standards were conducting an investigation into the trading activities of Interlock Drives Limited.

Mrs Parfrey, a widow of Churchward Road, Hanham, was in the process of having her driveway and patio jet washed and sealed by a representative of Interlock following a cold call at her home.

What started out as a simple job for £150 had already gone up to £1,500 as a result of further problems discovered by the Interlock representative. John Coffey, a sub contractor for Interlock, then attended at the house and informed Mrs Parfrey that the damp proof course of her house was being damaged by algae growing on the walls. He stated that this was eating away at the cement in the walls and would cause great problems with the damp proof course. He further worried her by saying that this would be a problem if she wanted to sell her house.

Mrs Parfrey was so worried by what she heard that she readily agreed to Interlock doing work to remedy the problem, which Coffey said he would do for a good price.

The work started, but Mrs Parfrey was concerned and called Trading Standards. An officer attended the same day and discovered the remedial work underway, which involved the application of a bituminous paint below the damp proof course. An Interlock employee could not even explain the purpose of the work to the officer and a surveyor was called in to examine it.

The surveyor’s report concluded that minor algae growth on the wall was of “no consequence” and that the work carried out served “no purpose whatsoever”. The report also concluded that any builder with even limited experience would not have carried out this work.

In court Coffey’s representative argued that he was acting with complete honesty in voicing his opinion about the wall and what needed to be done to rectify it.

Coffey is the brother of Jim Coffey, the former director of Interlock Drives, who was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison last year for other rogue trading offences committed by him and his company, including other offences committed at the home of Mrs Parfrey.

After the hearing Councillor Claire Young, Chair of the Communities Committee said “South Gloucestershire Council is committed to dealing with rogue traders in a robust manner and will prosecute where serious offences are discovered”.

Neil Derrick, Senior Enforcement Officer added “We acted quickly, as we do with all reports of rogue trading, and were able to prevent Mrs Parfrey from being defrauded in this case”.

Anyone wishing to report incidents of rogue trading, or who is merely concerned that a neighbour is being targeted, can report their suspicions in strictest confidence on 08454 04 05 06.

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