Builder facing jail over fraud

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Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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A rogue builder who defrauded dozens of homeowners out of nearly £1 million is facing jail.

Mark Jenkins, 45, used a number of aliases to target customers in Bristol, north Somerset and south Wales over more than a two-year period.

The gambling addict would overcharge customers, demand large sums up front as deposits and regularly fail to complete work, Bristol Crown Court heard.

Jenkins – who changed his name to avoid notoriety after serving a prison sentence for a previous rogue builder fraud and being declared bankrupt – left a trail of devastation behind him with customers having half-finished renovations, often taking out loans to complete work, and suffering increased stress and health problems.

Prosecutors told Bristol Crown Court that Jenkins – who drove a series of flash Porsche cars to impress customers – conned £830,000 from homeowners but the defendant insisted the figure was in fact £573,000.

Mark Hollier, prosecuting, said Jenkins had previously been known as Mark Killick, but also used the name Mark Richards.

He traded as Pro-Fit Builders but tried to cover his tracks by working as XL Builders and Trade Bookers.

As a one-man operation Jenkins did not employ any staff or have any commercial premises and advertised on the RatedPeople.com website.

A total of 42 homeowners in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Clevedon, Weston super Mare and Bristol fell victim to his silver tongue.

“The defendant has received a total of £1.4 million and the prosecution assert that he left behind a trail of wreckage, destruction and inflicted misery and heartache to the persons concerned,” Mr Hollier said.

“At no time has he expressed any remorse. The changing of his name is indicative of the deceit and deception of this defendant in his dealings with members of the public from the very outset.

“The name changes prevented even the most careful and cautious customer checking out the bona fide credentials of their potential builder.

“There was a constant stream of fabrication and deceit and people thought they were dealing with a bona fide operation when in fact they were dealing with a one-man band – a complete cowboy.”

He said the defendant’s business was a kind of “Ponzi” scheme which constantly needed an inflow of customer deposits because it would collapse without regular cash injections.

“Essentially it would appear it was a ‘seat of the pants’ operation and the investigating officers have not recovered any accounts,” the prosecutor said.

“It appears the defendant spent his time, at least during the period of the indictment, robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The court heard Jenkins had over a three-year period deposited £201,000 on an online gambling website, while withdrawing £139,000.

“He has made losses of £62,000 and the Crown say that his only known source of income was his customers from his building firm,” Mr Hollier said.

Jenkins would lure customers with a “bespoke service” with an all-in-one price, which included fixtures and fittings, such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms, which they found very attractive.

The court heard how Jenkins had devastated the lives of many of his customers after they fell for his lies and deceit.

One woman, from Fishponds, Bristol, who paid him a £20,000 deposit to build an extension, said: “Mark Jenkins left me with a shell on the side of my house and he has ruined my life.”

Another customer, from Merthyr Tydfil, who paid Jenkins a £17,000 deposit to build an extension, said: “The stress caused by Mark Jenkins has brought our marriage to the brink of collapse and our relationship with our children has suffered.

“We are now living with a constant reminder of his deceit and our gullibility. He will have a lasting effect upon our family and we will suffer financially for 10 years.”

One Cardiff man paid Jenkins an £18,500 deposit to build an annexe at his home for his terminally ill grandmother.

“As my grandmother’s health deteriorated I had to constantly say the work was continuing and she knew she was near the end and wanted to spend her final days and weeks at home as she did not want to be in hospital,” he said.

“She died in hospital and her final words were ‘When can I come home?'”

Another victim, from Bristol, described Jenkins as a “remarkably coherent storyteller”.

“I have felt powerless to protect my home, my family and my marriage from Jenkins and his elaborate scam,” he said.

“I have stood by and let him turn our lives upside down and we will never be able to trust people again – it has been a living nightmare.”

Avon and Somerset Police and trading standards began investigating Jenkins after several customers in the Bristol area realised they had been conned by the same rogue builder.

At a previous hearing Jenkins, of Drum Tower View, Caerphilly, South Wales, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraudulent trading.

He also asked for 12 offences under the Insolvency Act of failing to comply with a bankruptcy restriction and 10 offences of fraudulently obtaining credit to be taken into account.

Alexander Greenwood, defending, said: “It will seem utterly hollow and meaningless to the victims of Mr Jenkins that through me he does express remorse.”

Many of Jenkins’ victims had attended court to see him jailed but Judge Graham Hume Jones said he would pass sentence next Thursday and remanded him into custody.

Published: Friday 17th October 2014 by The News Editor

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