Adam Priestley was brought to justice following a lengthy investigation by West Yorkshire Police.
The Leeds District Investigations Team found that Priestley had left a trail of destruction in his wake after taking large payments for building work that was either never started or never completed. The little work that was done was of such a poor standard that it needed full rectification.
The offences mainly occurred in West Yorkshire – in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees, with others in Harrogate, Rochdale and Colne.
Priestley was arrested on several occasions but denied the offences and maintained that his victims’ complaints were a civil dispute.
He was initially charged with eight fraud offences before investigators built up the full picture of the scale of his offending and saw him charged in January this year in relation to 52 fraud offences, following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Legitimate builders who completed rectification work provided statements to show how Priestley’s work was way below the standard of a competent builder and had be completely restarted.
The evidence showed that he was taking money and promising to complete work with no intention or capability to do it.
When he appeared at Leeds Crown Court on 11th February, he pleaded guilty to 19 counts of fraud, with one count relating to 40 victims between September 1, 2019 and December 31, 2021. The total value of the fraud was put at £473,166.
Priestley, aged 40, also pleaded guilty to possessing counterfeit currency in relation to £2,060 of fake bank notes. He admitted another charge in relation to possessing £560 of fake £20 notes and passing them as genuine.
He was sentenced on 25th March to a total of 66 months in prison.
Detective Inspector Anna Tomlinson, who heads Leeds District Investigations Team, said: “Priestley’s offending caused widespread misery for a very large number of people across West Yorkshire and beyond, over a significant period of time. He was an absolutely prolific fraudster who exploited people on an industrial scale. This is not a case of a legitimate trader falling behind with jobs, but someone who deliberately took the opportunity to rip people off repeatedly with no intention of completing any work.
“His victims have not only suffered significant financial loss but some have also had to endure the disruption and inconvenience of having their homes turned into building sites before being left to pick up the pieces.
“They have then been faced with the additional costs to get the work completed by other builders. We understand that in some cases, local tradespeople have rallied round out of good will to help victims, which is heart-warming to hear and will have helped to restore their faith in others.”
She added: “We hope his conviction and imprisonment will help to reassure all his victims and the wider community, and also serve as a clear warning to others who think they can defraud people in this way without having to face the consequences.
“While Priestley is the only person to blame here for his criminal actions, this case should act as a reminder to people to always be vigilant when employing tradespeople to do work at their homes. Thoroughly check their credentials and satisfy yourself that they are legitimate and trustworthy, ideally through personal recommendations from family or friends. Obtain written quotes before choosing who to use and be suspicious if you’re asked to pay large sums of money upfront, particularly in cash. Trading Standards or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline can also help with advice on trusted traders.”