ST HELENS Council has welcomed the sentences handed to two rogue builders who conned elderly residents out of money.

Stuart Magrath and business partner William Greenall were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court after a prosecution was brought forward by St Helens Trading Standards.

Magrath, of Albert Street, Newtown, Wigan, pleaded guilty to two offences of carrying out a business for a fraudulent purpose which spanned May 2016 and April last year, and was jailed for three years.

Meanwhile Greenall, of Irene Avenue, Haresfinch, who admitted one of the two charges, was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 140 hours unpaid work.

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A court heard that Stuart Magrath, 39, ripped off 14 victims, including many pensioners all over the north west.

Between May 2016 and April 2018, Magrath cold called at addresses all over the North West of England – with one elderly lady eventually opening the door after being contacted 12 times.

St Helens Star:

Stuart Magrath

Their business, SB Building Service, only dealt in cash and operated a three-stage payment structure which was rarely adhered to.

‘Stage one’, which was payable immediately upon the contract being signed, ‘stage two’ which was payable upon materials being ordered and ‘stage three’, which was payable following completion.

Time and again cash payments were requested earlier than they were due to be paid under the contract, start dates were put back, for weeks or even months at a time, with little or no notice to the customer, work listed in the contracts simply wasn’t started or where it was, wasn’t adequately completed.

When customers reached the end of their patience and requested a refund or remedial work, all that was forthcoming was a series of excuses and broken promises.

Greenall's involvement was considered less serious because he wasn’t involved in the cold calling or hard selling tactics, but turned a blind eye to it.

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Judge Stuart Driver, QC, said to Magrath: “You were the driving force and played a leading role in persuading customers to sign contracts.

“I find as a fact that when those contracts were signed by those people your state of mind was that you just wanted the cash.

“You could not care less whether the work was done properly, on time or in fact at all.

“To achieve that you lied to their faces. You were persistent, pestering them to sign, pestering them to pay and sometimes to pay again.

“Cynically you told one customer, ‘we are not a firm that rips off pensioners like you see on the telly'.

“In fact that is exactly what you were.

“The work was either done badly, done late, done in part or not done at all. Many customers requested refunds, very few got any or very little money back.

"The harm was more than financial, it had a emotional affect on the lives of many of your elderly victims.”

St Helens Star:

William Greenall

In welcoming the sentences, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for environmental services, Cllr Lynn Clarke, said: "Crimes like this which fleece elderly and vulnerable people out of their savings cause misery in our communities so I’m glad to see the law come down hard on those responsible.

“To prevent others falling victim to rogue traders, I would urge residents to follow the advice of our Trading Standards team which is to never agree to have work undertaken there and then by people who just happen to knock on your door; get at least three quotations from traders before making a decision - and consider recommendations from family and friends.”

  • In May, St Helens Council Trading Standards launched a new website dedicated to helping residents find trusted local traders and supporting local businesses. Discover tried and trusted traders at sthelens.gov.uk/traderregister
  • Residents who believe they have been misled or have paid over the odds for work done, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Help Line by telephoning 03454 040506 or visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Anyone who suspects a rogue trader is operating in their area should contact Trading Standards with as much information as possible, including car registration numbers and physical descriptions, by calling 01744 676338, or via tradingstandards@sthelens.gov.uk