A ROGUE trader who was uncovered on a BBC programme has been jailed for a year after conning nearly £8,000 from five vulnerable victims.
Jason Butcher claimed to be a qualified tree surgeon, overcharging five customers for gardening work, incomplete jobs or for work that did not need doing from August 2010 to March 2011.
He conned people ranging in age from 55 to 94 – including one woman who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease – and pocketed £7,915 in total.
Butcher, who traded under Oakland Tree Care, Oakland Tree Services and Country Tree Services, appeared on BBC Rogue Traders on April 26, 2011.
The 29-year-old – who had no formal qualifications – was seen in two sting operations claiming a tree had honey fungus when it did not and quoting inflated prices to actors.
Oxford Crown Court heard Butcher started his string of offences on August 13, 2010, when he knocked on the door of Kristeen Goodband, 73, of Banbury, and said her garden was overgrown.
She paid him £2,275 including £700 which she lent him after he said his strimmer was broken.
Speaking after the court case, Mrs Goodband said: “I feel better he has been jailed but I would have preferred it to be a longer sentence.
“I’m angry I wont getting any of my money returned. He was horrendous. I think I was vulnerable and I wasn’t thinking straight. I was a sucker.”
The court heard that two months later, on October 12, 2010, 84-year-old George Payne, of North Oxford, was asked by Butcher if he needed any gardening doing.
They agreed £230 for work on a sycamore tree, which Butcher then claimed had honey fungus and offered to cut it down for an additional £120.
Matthew Corrie, prosecuting, said: “The tree was not properly cut down and the stump was not treated and it did not have honey fungus.”
A few weeks later, on November 29, 2010, Butcher, wearing overalls saying Oaklands Tree Services, knocked on the door of 94-year-old Carterton resident Ruth Purser.
She gave him £450 but Mr Corrie said the work should have cost no more than £100.
Then on January 13, 2011, Butcher told Parkinson’s sufferer Eileen Mosson, 77, of Wallingford, some of her trees needed cutting and started work.
Mr Corrie said: “Mrs Mosson said she was scared, so wrote him a cheque for £1,400.
Butcher later demanded another £3,000 but the court heard the work should have cost £637.50.
And on March 16, 2011, Anne-Marie Fisher, 55, of South Oxfordshire, paid Butcher £440, after seeing him work on a neighbour’s tree.
Mr Corrie said: “She was quoted £180 to top the yew tree in her garden.
“Mrs Fisher also asked for sycamore trees to be reduced and was quoted £260 for two.”
The court heard when Butcher returned he claimed the sycamore trees had honey fungus and demanded £260 for each.
Steven Molloy, defending, said: “Although they are vulnerable victims, he has not set out to target elderly or vulnerable people. He does express contrition for what he has done.”
Butcher, of Newlands Farm in Milton Road, Bloxham, admitted one charge of theft, five of fraud, six offences contrary to the proceeds of crime act and two contrary to unfair trading regulations.
Sentencing, Judge Mary Jane Mowat said: “When it comes to the particular people you conned, they were vulnerable. This was a series of frauds, nasty frauds, with vulnerable victims.
“It has an adverse effect not just on the victims but on the public in general whose confidence in bonafide tradesmen is undermined.”
Richard Webb, head of Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards, said: “We hope this sentencing will act as a deterrent to others.”