Gary Henry, 54, receives prison for defrauding elderly customers

A firefighter and plumber from Instow has been sent to prison for two years after defrauding elderly customers.

Gary Henry, 54 of Anstey Way, was found guilty of three charges of fraud and three of contravening professional diligence under the consumer protection legislation, following a two week trial at Exeter Crown Court.

Sentencing on Friday, Judge Phillip Wassall said his case was one of 'genuine rogue trading' and his imprisonment should send a message the courts take such issues seriously.

He said that when Mr Henry gave his evidence his 'arrogance was breath taking' and that he had showed no remorse.

The court heard how, trading under the names of Gary Henry Ltd and Barnstaple Plumbing and Heating, he overcharged customers, invoiced them for work that had not been done and falsely claimed he was registered with OFTEC.

His victims included an elderly couple who were charged £3,860 for a boiler he bought for £1,699 and a £870 for a flue pipe costing £87, as well as work that was not done.

Another elderly customer was charged more than £25,000 for replacement of an oil fired system which when inspected by an expert was found to have numerous faults including insufficient air intake which left a risk of poisoning as well as a fire risk.

Henry had denied all charges apart from two consumer protection matters relating to falsely advertising trade association membership. He was acquitted of two further Fraud Act offences and two further consumer protection charges.

Speaking after the sentence was handed out, Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council's cabinet member with responsibility for trading standards, said they would not tolerate such dishonest trading activity in Devon.

"I hope the sentence imposed on Mr Henry highlights how we strive to protect the people of Devon, but more importantly will encourage those who suspect they have been conned to come forward," he said.

He urged anyone who had an oil fired appliance installed by Henry to get it checked by a qualified and registered technician, as well as ensure their local district council building control department had been notified.

Anyone with concerns, or who would like advice about their rights can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 0404 506 or visit their www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Businesses can get advice from Devon and Somerset Trading Standards via www.devonsomersettradingstandards.gov.uk or call 01392 381381.