A LANDSCAPE gardener who left customers more than £7,000 out of pocket has been ordered to pay a compensation order to refund those affected.
Martin Stewart Graham, 34, of Thornaby, admitted nine offences of fraud contrary to Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday 29 September 2015.
Mr Graham was today (20 May) sentenced to a 12 months concurrent prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a total of £5,519.95 back to his customers at a rate of £100 per week.
At an earlier hearing on 29 September 2015, the court heard how Mr Graham failed to carry out agreed landscape gardening services and general building work after taking payment from his customers. Seven residents and one business were affected with individual losses ranging from £300 to £2,300. An investigation by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council found that between April and September 2014, Mr Graham traded as Graham Landscapes – giving quotes for work to be carried out and taking payments for materials.
The materials were then not supplied as Mr Graham told customers shortly after that he was ceasing to trade.
Many of the consumers received nothing for their payments and those whose gardens were started were left in a poorer state than before.
In mitigation, Mr Graham said that shortly after starting to trade he had got into difficulty when a customer withheld payment of an amount owed. From there, he said he began taking money from customers in order to finish previous jobs.
Today (20 May), Mr Graham’s defence lawyer stated that around £2,300 had been paid back to customers to date.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, said: “Mr Graham has showed complete disregard for his customers who paid significant amounts of money for landscape gardening and building work.
“This will have been a very distressing time for the people involved so it is only right that the court has imposed this compensation order.
“Our Trading Standards Team will always investigate claims of sub standard paid for work not being completed and I hope this case will help all traders understand that they must take their legal obligations seriously."
To contact Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Trading Standards team for help and advice, call 01642 526560 or email [email protected]