Cowboy builders have been jailed after causing major damage to the home of an elderly couple in Worcester Park and quoting £300,000 for unnecessary repairs.

Thomas William Penfold, Managing Director of P&T Property Services Limited, was convicted of fraudulent trading and money laundering. He was jailed four years and three years respectively.

His employee Glenn Steel was convicted of fraudulent trading and was jailed for 30 months.

The couple were aged 89 and 84 at the time of the offence and the husband has since died.

In September 2017 a member of staff calling himself Paul cold called at the couple’s home, claiming to be from the company which rendered the front of the house a few years’ previously. They said any necessary work was still under guarantee and would be of no cost to the couple.

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The trader then realised there was unfinished building work in the house – the couple had recently parted company with a different trader who had been completing a renovation project, including building an extension. The trader offered to complete the work at the same cost. The couple agreed and paid P&T £20,250 for the work.

On their first day of work, P&T demolished the living room wall while the couple were at a hospital appointment and without their knowledge or permission. Penfold claimed it just fell apart while they were removing plaster. In a subsequent interview, the husband described his feelings: “I was in shock, I just couldn’t believe that my wall between the living room and the hall could just crumble.”

Penfold and Paul also said the loft was in poor state and the whole roof would need to be replaced. After initially asking for £300,000, they agreed a price of £270,000 for the work.

The couple felt trapped by the builders and felt they had no choice but to agree. The company had also offered to supply extras ‘for free’ such as a stair lift, and paving the front and rear gardens. Steel wrote the quotes, contracts and paperwork from P&T to the couple, officers were not able to identify Paul.

The couple transferred £75,800 to P&T, but their bank suspected it was a fraudulent transaction, froze P&T’s bank account and alerted the police.

The police then contacted Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards to investigate, who visited the home the same day – officers described it as a ‘building site’.

The couple did get this money back, but the original £20,250 had been withdrawn from the company account shortly after it was transferred and couldn’t be returned.

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Denise Turner-Stewart, Surrey County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience, said: “Penfold and Steel’s treatment of these two vulnerable couples is nothing short of disgusting and their prison sentences are exactly what they deserved. I would like to thank both couples for reliving these hugely distressing events with trading standards officers and in court so we can bring these criminals to justice.

“I would also like to thank our trading standards officers for the long hours and hard work on this investigation, and for their support for both couples.

“It’s vital we bring these cases to court. These people are more than rogue traders, they’re organised criminals who are knowingly targeting vulnerable people with the aim of stealing tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds from them. Our message to these criminals is we’re looking for you, we will find you, and we will work tirelessly to bring you to justice.