In a stark warning to businesses to watch out for tradesmen offering bogus property services, a crook pretended that scores of commercial premises had to have their drinking water compulsorily tested and hit them with substantial charges. John Stewart Richmond targeted businesses in Hertfordshire and north London, sending them invoices for £808.80 for his unnecessary services. 140 such bills were sent out before multiple trading standards complaints stopped him in his tracks.
Most of Richmond’s victims were located on industrial parks. On some occasions, he pretended to be representing local authorities or other official bodies and persuaded unwary victims to sign documents which committed them to a minimum 12-month contract and two tests. He was given a 28-day suspended jail term after pleading guilty to eight offences under the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 in March 2013 at St Albans Crown Court.
He was also ordered to pay £2,000 towards the costs of his prosecution. However, in overturning the costs order, the Court of Appeal noted his ‘parlous financial situation’. He was £45,000 in debt and his monthly outgoings outweighed his income by £1,400. His finances had deteriorated further since his sentencing and payment of the costs bill was, in the circumstances, unachievable.