Cowboy builders in Cardiff, Wales, ruin homes and defraud owners | UK | News

Alan Lee (left) and Gareth Robinson have been jailed (Image: Cardiff City Council / South Wales Police)

Alan Lee, 48, defrauded his victims of more than £500,000 and his “trusted lieutenant” Gareth Robinson, 41, helped with many of the scams. A court heard Lee and his team stripped roofs from the homes of vulnerable people when no work was needed and, when one of his victims refused to pay, he told them: “I know where you live.”

Lee was described as an “aggressive and intimidating person” in court as prosecutors told how he defrauded 24 people of £556,000, including one homeowner of £80,000 alone.

But he was jailed today for six years and 10 months. Robinson will serve three years and four months in jail.

Sentencing the crooks at Cardiff Crown Court today, judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said: “The two of you used the firm to drefraud vulnerable people of as much money as you could get. Your intention was to deceive, manipulate and even intimidate them.

“You milked your victims for every penny you could get. Whatever may have been said on your advertising flyers, you are not builders. You are fraudsters.”

The court heard Lee’s team was “utterly unskilled” and left homes across south Wales in messes.

Robinson, meanwhile, allowed his bank account to be used for their takings, Wales Online reports. He admitted fraud worth £360,000 against 10 victims.

Alan Lee

Lee defrauded his victims of more than £500,000 (Image: South Wales Police)

You milked your victims for every penny you could get… You are not builders. You are fraudsters

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke

Lee Reynolds, prosecuting, said: “Mr Lee is a persistent, dishonest, aggressive and intimidating person who describes himself as a builder. He clearly works in a pre-planned and systematic way, targeting elderly people.

“He would say work was needed on homes, usually of a roofing nature, when it was not. He would often scare consumers by telling them their roof was unsafe.

“Usually Mr Lee and sometimes Mr Robinson would pluck figures out of the air knowing they would charge the consumer considerably more. By the time the bad news was passed, the consumer would be situationally vulnerable, because normally the home had been stripped of its roof.”

Lee and Robinson targeted the Roath, Ely, Thornhill, and Llanishen areas of Cardiff, as well as Barry and Newport in south Wales, between September 2018 until December 2020.

Alan Lee

Lee and and his team stripped roofs from the homes of vulnerable people (Image: Cardiff City Council)

Mr Reynolds said: “Mr Lee would deliberately mock police and Trading Standards for a lack of apparent action. It is not an overstatement to say he told hundreds of lies.

“Those he employed — and I use that word in the loosest terms — were utterly unskilled. Consumers were left with large rectification bills for a poor standard of work never required in the first place.”

The racket happened before and after Lee, from Rumney, Cardiff, was handed a suspended two-year jail term for similar fraud against an elderly woman.

Mr Reynolds added: “The day after the sentence was imposed, he changed the name of his company from AL Construction to Capital Construction.”

The victims, who included 19 people aged over 60, received “aggressive, abusive phone calls” from Lee.

The defendant told one wheelchair user that work on her home would take one month, but it stretched for 16 months and left the property in ruins.

When one victim said they may take Lee to court, he told them: “I know where you live”. He told another: “You don’t want me to get to a point where I flip.”

The damage caused by Lee made some of the homes unsafe. One victim’s attempts to examine the work saw him fall and suffer multiple fractures to one side of his body.

Gareth Robinson

Gareth Robinson, who has three children, admitted fraud worth £360,000 against 10 victims (Image: South Wales Police)

The court heard Lee took £65,000 from one customer and when they refused to pay more, he told his roofers to stop work, leaving the home in “a mess”. The victim said: “It was as if he was on a mission to bleed me dry. It was like being held to ransom.”

One of the victims said Robinson was “just as convincing a liar” as Lee and would make promises on his children’s lives that he was telling the truth about the work.

Donal Lawler, defending for Lee, described the men’s business practices as “amoral” and “appalling”.

He added: “Mr Lee is ashamed of his actions. They do not reflect the real man behind these offences. His family, who attend court today, are bemused about what has been going on with Mr Lee these past few years.

“Illiterate and of such low intelligence he is deemed to have a learning disability, this can affect the way he behaves, but is no excuse at all and I do not suggest it is.

“He was once a trusted, respected and sought-after builder, with the main contractor to one of Wales’ biggest home improvement firms. He was the first person they called. He took pride in his work. His family say he was a perfectionist. He was friendly, polite and good-natured.

“Something changed, it seems to his family, about four years ago. He stopped working for the contractor and got involved in roofing and extensions. This surprised his family, not least because it is an area of work way beyond his skills.”

It turned out Lee was using cocaine and this “robbed him of his previous values and moral compass”, Mr Lawler told the court. The lawyer said Lee stopped taking the drug recently, after his wife delivered an “ultimatum” threatening to stop him seeing his children.

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke observed that both defendants have “blamed each other” for the fraud.

Hashim Salmman, mitigating for Robinson, said his client had lesser involvement and that the “aggression” of Lee was significant to the scams.

Mr Salmman pointed out Robinson had no previous convictions for fraud. He said his client’s offending was driven by abuse of drugs including crack cocaine, but he has been free of the substance for 11 months.

Father-to-three Robinson has been “working hard in legitimate employment”, an admin role, since the racket came to an end, Mr Salmman added.

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