Exeter Crown Court sentenced James Prentice, 41, from Kingsbridge in South Devon, to six months imprisonment suspended for two years, and 150 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay compensation of £4,500 to his victims after the prosecrtuin brought by the Insolvency Service.
The court heard that Prentice was declared bankrupt in December 2014. Although he could continue working as a builder through his company, JSP Woodworx, the terms of his bankruptcy restrictions undertaking meant that he was not allowed to take more than £500 as a deposit from clients without disclosing that he was a bankrupt.
Despite this, between June 2016 and January 2018, Prentice took more than £271,000 to build a retirement home on farmland in Taunton for a customer. He claimed this was for his services and to supply goods needed for the project.
Some work did take place but not to his clients’ satisfaction and Prentice was dismissed in October 2017. Meanwhile the couple waiting to move in, then in their late 60s, had to use another builder to finish the building work, paying a further £256,000, and have been stuck living in a caravan ever since.
Prentice was also employed to renovate a home in Devon for another customer. In November 2016, he demanded an upfront payment ‘to get things going’, receiving almost £45,000, and then further payments totalling £125,000. But he was soon thrown off this job too as his work was not deemed satisfactory.
The pattern continued throughout 2017 where a further £204,000 was paid upfront to him for another job. A subcontractor also went unpaid.
At no point did Prentice inform his victims of his bankruptcy restrictions undertaking (BRU), the court heard, and all victims stated they would not have used Prentice’s services or paid him up front had they been aware.
The Insolvency Service investigated Prentice’s conduct following a complaint from one of his victims and invited him for interview. Prentice claimed he had misunderstood the terms of his BRU.
He pleaded guilty to nine counts of obtaining credit without declaring he was subject of a bankruptcy restrictions undertaking.
Glenn Wicks, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “James Prentice should have been fully aware of his bankruptcy restrictions yet obtained a substantial amount of funds whilst providing shoddy work for his victims. Prentice acted dishonestly and his actions have left his customers suffering huge financial losses, leaving one couple forced to live in a mobile home instead of their dream retirement home.
“Prentice’s actions have had a prolonged impact on the people he took funds from. We will investigate bankrupts who do not comply with the terms of their restrictions and action will be taken through the criminal courts where it is appropriate.”