Trio sentenced to more than nine years for home improvement scam

Three scammers have been sentenced to a combined total of 9 ¼ years (111 months) at Birmingham Crown Court today (26 August 2020) for their part in running a fraudulent home improvement company in Stourport on Severn, Worcestershire.

The sentences follow an eight-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court where Adrian Hillman, aged 44, his wife Rebecca Hillman, aged 46, and their associate Philip Farrington, aged 62, were found guilty of 34 offences under the Companies Act 2006, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

During the trial, the court had heard how Mr and Mrs Hillman (both of Severn Side in Stourport on Severn) and Phillip Farrington (of Broomy Close in Stourport on Severn) all played their part in conning members of the public into paying for overpriced, ineffective or unnecessary home improvement work. The work was often mis-sold, of no benefit or simply never carried out at all.

The work focused on wall and roof coatings and solar panel batteries with claims that they would improve energy efficiency and reduce bills. These claims were dismissed by expert witnesses in the trial.

The defendants also refused to refund customers’ money when they cancelled within their cancellation period or because the work was never started. The Court heard from more than 45 witnesses who had paid around £208,000 but had never had the work completed or their money returned.

The victims targeted by the perpetrators were predominantly older people or people living in vulnerable situations, with a significant number aged in their 80s and 90s. The majority of the victims were in the Midlands, including Birmingham, Worcestershire and Shropshire, although a number were from wider afield including Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and even as far away as the Isle of Wight.

The sentences handed down were as follows:

  • Sentencing judge HHJ Mukherjee described Adrian Hillman as the driving force and told him that he was a ‘thoroughly dishonest businessman’. Mr Hillman, guilty of 12 offences and already in prison on remand, was sentenced to a total of 5 years imprisonment and banned from being a company director for 8 years.
  • In sentencing Rebecca Hillman, the judge said that she was far from being a peripheral character and was directly involved with a full knowledge of what was happening. Mrs Hillman, guilty of eight offences, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and was banned from becoming a company director for 6 years
  • In sentencing Philip Farrington, HHJ Mukherjee told him that whilst he did not play a leading role, his was still an important one. Mr Farrington, guilty of 10 offences, received a sentence of 21 months, with a 4-year directorship ban. Unlike the other two, Mr Farrington’s sentence was suspended for 2 years
  • Energenie Shield UK Ltd, one of the two companies used by the Hillmans and Mr Farrington to carry out their activity, was ordered to pay a fine of £8000.

The sentences follow an investigation by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team in Central England.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“This scam affected more than 50 homeowners who were misled by fraudulent claims and paid hard earned money for overpriced, ineffective or unnecessary home improvement work. These criminals operated in a number of locations across the country and consistently acted dishonestly to deceive their victims, often older people or people in vulnerable situations.

“As a result of the work carried out by investigators and thanks to the victims who came forward to share their story, this fraudulent operation has come to an end. If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a fraud like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service by calling 0808 223 1133.”

The trio were found guilty on 31 January 2020. A Proceeds of Crime case will now follow the conclusion to the criminal investigation.

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.