A man found guilty of running a fraudulent tarmac repair business has been ordered to pay back £150,000 to his victims at a Proceeds of Crime hearing at Cardiff Crown Court. The POCA proceedings follow his five-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down in August 2018 for his crimes. Failure to pay this sum within three months could result in an additional prison sentence of two years.
Allan John Coutts, 61, from Berkshire, cold-called victims across the whole of England and Wales between February 2015 and August 2016 to pressurise them into agreeing to driveway repair work. Consumers targeted were often elderly or retired and in some cases extremely vulnerable and were told their driveways could be repaired cheaply with excess supplies of materials.
The work Coutts did, which often took only hours to complete, was consistently of an extremely poor standard, with just loose stone chippings applied to existing driveways with no solution used to hold it in place. Customers would later discover the work they had paid for with a ‘five-year guarantee’ was worthless. Coutts provided company details, a contact address and telephone number but subsequently failed to deal with any complaints which were numerous in number.
Victims were charged between £500 and £7,000. Coutts preferred customers to pay in cash, with some customers taken to local banks to withdraw money. The investigation – led by Powys County Council Trading Standards and supported by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team Wales – uncovered £600,000 cash and card payments in just over a year and the investigation highlighted wider criminality. The Proceeds of Crime proceedings found that Coutts benefited to the sum of £905,000 from his criminality.
The business traded under several names, including Roadmac Construction Limited, A. Coutts Tarmac Division and Roads and Drives & Asphalting, in a deliberate attempt to avoid detection. The defendant used a lorry specifically designed to resemble an ‘official’ vehicle, such as that used by the Highways Agency, to cold call customers to try and obtain the driveway repair work. He would select secluded properties in remote areas with longer driveways to maximise profit and minimise the chances of being caught.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“Doorstep crime continues to blight our communities and leaves many of our most vulnerable citizens scared, scarred and bankrupt. Our expert teams are working to find the crooks and bring them to justice. The long prison sentence for Mr Coutts, combined with the additional confiscation orders announced today, send a strong message that crime does not pay.
“Thanks to the hard work of our investigators, the criminal must pay back consumers or risk facing a further prison sentence. If you believe you, or someone you know, has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 03454 04 05 06.”
County Councillor James Evans of Powys County Council (Cabinet member with Portfolio that includes Trading Standards) added
"We originally had some 10 victims in Powys of this fraud and this case demonstrates how well we worked regionally in partnership with National Trading Standards to investigate and prosecute this rogue trader, and take his ill-gotten gains from him.
If we did not do this partnership work then rogue traders would get away with their crimes and benefit financially. Powys Council appropriately took on this case as the problem started here and I wish to thank the Regional Investigation Team Wales’, National Trading Standards and our Powys Trading Standards team for the professional way they have all investigated a nationwide fraud and in doing so brought this rogue trader to justice, protecting our vulnerable consumers whilst allowing legitimate traders to prosper and grow."
Notes to Editors
About National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality and by providing a “safety net” to limit unsafe consumer goods entering the UK and protecting food supplies by ensuring the animal feed chain is safe.
Proceeds of Crime (POCA)
- POCA work takes place post- conviction and is a financial investigation and are proceedings to remove the ‘criminal benefit’ that defendants acquire from their criminality
- POCA has been available to Local Authorities since 2006
- For more information see https://www.cps.gov.uk/proceeds-crime
Powys County Council, Trading Standards
- Professional Lead Trading Standards, Community Safety, Emergency Planning – Clive Jones 01874 623420, email firstname.lastname@example.org