Victims conned out of tens of thousands of pounds by Bath fraudster
A criminal tradesman from Chelwood near Bath has been sentenced to five years in prison at Bristol Crown Court today after pleading guilty to two counts of fraudulent trading and asking for a further count to be taken into consideration in a case taken by Bristol City Council. The individual also received an indefinite Criminal Behaviour Order barring them from obtaining paid building, maintenance, and gardening work and has been banned from being a director for ten years.
Between May 2016 and August 2021, Mark Buck (49) carried out fraudulent business by obtaining money from customers for building works by giving misleading and false information. During an investigation led by the National Trading Standards South West Regional Investigation Team, hosted by Bristol City Council, Mr Buck was found to have taken large sums of money from his customers in advance, without informing them of his bankruptcy status. The investigation team identified 60 victims, who between them lost £660,000.
Buck took most of the payments from customers at the start of a job, frequently requesting payment for work that had either only just been started or was nowhere near completion. As the timeframe for the work to be completed passed, most complaints were treated with contempt and Buck used a variety of excuses involving his own ill health or that of family members.
The quality of any work that was done was generally poor, with Mr Buck leaving a trail of broken promises and destruction behind him, including a wall that collapsed in strong winds, kitchens paid for and never supplied and holes where windows and doors should have been fitted. Money taken for engineers, architects and building inspectors was never handed over and went straight into Mr Buck’s pocket.
A surveyor who examined some of Mr Buck’s handiwork concluded: ‘I consider the quality of the work overall to be poor and not to a reasonable standard’.
Mr Buck operated using a variety of trading names to conceal his fraudulent trading, and to conceal his identity further he made customers pay money to at least 28 different bank accounts belonging to friends and employees.
Those who complained were sometimes refunded money, but very rarely did they get everything that they were entitled to. Some victims were left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
When passing sentence Recorder Happold said: “You lied to get business and put pressure on people to agree to contracts. You were intimidatory and robbed Peter to pay Paul. You put your customers through significant and emotional financial distress through a prolonged and calculated course of conduct.”
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:
“Dishonest trading can cause significant financial distress to victims, with many losing thousands of pounds. In this case, the defendant duped his customers into believing he was a reputable trader with the credentials to deliver on his promises.
“The use of such techniques will not be tolerated. We continue to take action against rogue traders to curtail their unlawful activity and protect consumers. I congratulate the National Trading Standards South West Regional Investigation Team for their ongoing work to identify suspects and bring enforcement action.
“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.”
Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Bristol City Council, said:
“The complexity and scale of this investigation - with victims spread across multiple authorities - underlines the importance and effectiveness of the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team.
“Bristol City Council is proud to host this team on behalf of the South West, helping to protect consumers across the region, and I congratulate the team for their professionalism in bringing such a prolific offender to justice.”
Notes to Editors
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.