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Judge jails builder for work scam; Householders conned out of cash.

Byline: By PAUL MCMILLAN

A COWBOY builder who ripped off homeowners in a pounds 16,000 scam has been jailed for 12 months.

John Sharp, 26, targeted seven properties across Blyth and Cramlington between July and December 2005.

He promised customers quality block paving and driveways at market rates, but Newcastle Crown Court heard THE work was well below standard, with bills ranging from pounds 600 to pounds 2,700.

Julian Smith, prosecuting, told the court Sharp had promised customers would not have to pay anything upfront.

But he added: "It's perfectly clear there was no intention to do the work properly or lay the foundations that are required for some of this work.

"Some of the complainants felt intimidated by the approaches made and demands for money."

Sharp would hand customers cards and leaflets bearing the name North East Paving. They gave the firm's address as a unit on a Blyth industrial estate which, checks later revealed, had been empty since 2003.

Some customers were reassured their driveways would be layered with strong dolomite rock. But when surveyors checked, the drives were found to have been built on sand.

One of those cheated was a woman who cared for her elderly mother and wanted an access ramp built at their Blyth home. She was charged pounds 1,400 - but when completed, the ramp was too narrow and the wrong height.

Sharp was arrested outside a Cramlington couple's home in December 2005 after demand-ing pounds 1,900 for substandard work on their drive. The builder, of Elconbury Close, Blyth, pleaded guilty to eight charges of obtaining by deception.

The court heard customers had been charged a total of pounds 15,970, which included materials, for the botched jobs.

Sharp's barrister, Tony Cornberg, said his client was not the owner of the company and had been pressured into getting results.

He added: "Many of the workers weren't English and he was probably the best man to make to make the sales as they don't speak the language."

Mr Cornberg said Sharp had also taken pounds 300 in cash to court to compensate one of his victims.

Jailing Sharp for a total of 12 months, Judge John Bowers told him he had to be made an example of.

He said: "People need to rely on a promise and they rely on me to send out a clear message".
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2007
Words:396
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