Fraudulent builders return £220k following Trading Standards investigation

Two fraudulent builders who left properties in danger have paid back £220,000 that will be returned to their victims following a National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team (North West) investigation.

Victims were targeted with misleading and dishonest sales tactics, charged for work that was never carried out, and often met with threatening responses when they asked for a refund.

The pair were sentenced – together with a third man – at Chester Crown Court on 18 April 2024 after pleading guilty to charges under the Fraud Act 2006 at the same court on 11 May 2023.

The sentences were as follows:

  • Alex Easdon (53) of Lymm, Warrington– 2 years imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Easdon was also disqualified from being a company director for 10 years and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.
  • Ludovic Black (43) of Birchwood, Warrington – 20 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Black was also disqualified from being a company director for 8 years and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
  • Nicholas Rothe (59) of Manchester – 20 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Rothe was also disqualified from being a company director for 7 years.

Between March 2016 and October 2018, the defendants ran four construction businesses – Cheshire Master Builders, Master Builders Group, Buckinghamshire Master Builders and Cheshire Architects and Construction – that duped customers online into thinking that they were engaging with long-established, reputable companies. Wren Kitchen and ITV logos appeared on their websites, suggesting they had worked in partnership, despite never doing so.

The defendants pressured victims into paying as much as 60% upfront for work that was either never completed or built poorly or dangerously, conning victims out of a combined total of £710,216.

Cheshire Master Builders quoted one couple £150,000 for an extension to help them care for their disabled son. After paying £115,000, the couple experienced repeated delays from the company, who also lied about planning applications that were made on the couple’s behalf.

The couple ended up terminating the contract and an independent expert valued the work at just £18,449.81. The couple face additional costs to rectify parts of the work undertaken.

Another victim paid £40,692 to Cheshire Architects and Construction for an extension designed to give her disabled son more independence. After paying an initial deposit, the victim grew concerned when they noticed the company were planning to describe the extension as a ‘hobby room’ in a planning permission application, when in fact it was to be used as living accommodation for her son.

When the victim expressed concern, she was assured the local authority would give permission regardless and was persuaded to pay a further £23,936.

A planning application was never submitted and when the victim tried to contact the company, she was either ignored or met with abusive responses – leaving her with an extension that could not be used as it did not comply with building regulations.

The defendants were prosecuted following an investigation led by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team (North West), hosted by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:

“Shamelessly preying on people seeking to make their homes accessible for their loved ones shows that the defendants were driven by insatiable greed, and had no regard for the emotional distress they caused their victims.

“This has been a complex case. I congratulate all those involved in securing a significant amount of money back for victims and demonstrating that this type of criminality will be investigated.

“If 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 0808 223 1133.”

Notes to Editors

For more information, please contact the National Trading Standards press office by emailing or calling 020 7101 5013

Notes to Editors

*Also known as Carnegie

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.