A CRUEL rogue trader is still at large after he was sentenced to over five years in prison for conning an elderly Rugby resident out of more than £100,000.
The public has been warned not to approach Darren Mitchell, 47, of no fixed abode, after he was sentenced in his absence.
He was prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) Trading Standards Service following an investigation.
During the trial, Warwick Crown Court heard that Mitchell, who traded as Stately Paving Ltd, offered driveway block paving, building and landscaping work.
Mitchell first knocked on the door of the elderly resident’s bungalow in July 2014 and agreed to block pave his driveway and remove an old greenhouse.
He repeatedly returned to the property together with others unknown, pressurising the resident into paying for more work including fencing, repairs to windows, building a brick shed and laying new turf.
Some of this work was never done or was not needed, and the pensioner was charged a ‘grossly excessive’ £120,000.
A Trading Standards expert witness estimated the true value of the work was less than £20,000, with remedial works being required costing around £3,800.
Over time the resident was systematically defrauded of over £100,000, sometimes withdrawing large amounts of cash from his bank account on a daily basis to pay Mitchell.
On one occasion the victim wrote a cheque for £20,000 which was meant to pay for a new shed. Instead Mitchell used the money to buy three vehicles.
To remain hidden from his customers, Mitchell gave the name of a Leicestershire farm as his business address, despite having no connection with the farm or the people living there.
When Warwickshire Trading Standards Service became aware of the fraud they launched an investigation, but in 2017 Mitchell disappeared and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found and arrested in 2019.
At Warwick Crown Court in March 2022, Mitchell was found guilty of four offences contrary to the Fraud Act 2006 and one offence contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
On day three of the five-day trial, Mitchell again disappeared – and was not present when he was sentenced by His Honour Judge Rochford in January 2023.
In his absence, Mitchell was sentenced to five years and three months imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation of £100,000.
In mitigation, Mitchell’s representative said that to his knowledge his client had not repeated his offending.
WCC’s community safety spokesman Coun Andy Crump said: “This has been a very lengthy and complicated investigation, but I’m delighted that our Trading Standards Service has been able to bring about a successful prosecution.
“Warwickshire Trading Standards will continue to seek to protect the most vulnerable in our community by raising awareness of the activities of rogue traders, supporting vulnerable residents when rogue traders arrive on their doorstep and investigating and prosecuting perpetrators.”
Mr Mitchell remains at large. Anyone who sees him is asked not to approach him, but to call 999. Any information can be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Report rogue traders to Warwickshire Trading Standards on 0808 223 1133.
Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk to find traders who are vetted and approved by Trading Standards.