Cowboy builder accuses a mother of 'playing the disability card' after botching garage conversion

Billee Hopkinson had no building qualifications when he traded under the name Ultra Restore Ltd in 2020. Credit: MEN Media

A cowboy builder stole money from a disability grant before accusing the homeowner of fraud after leaving a garage conversion for her disabled daughter incomplete.

Billee Hopkinson also left another property without a roof and took on even more work to build an extension after his company went under.

Preston Crown Court heard how the Hopkinson, of Tag Lane in Preston, had no building qualifications when he traded under the name Ultra Restore Ltd in 2020.

During spring of that year, Katrina Raynor applied for a grant from South Ribble Borough Council to convert the garage for her daughter who has a disability.

After being awarded the money the mother then hired Hopkinson to build a separate bathroom and another bathroom. He agreed to start work on 31 August 2020.

The 35-year-old promised the work would be finished by Christmas, but it soon became apparent there were issues with the project, the court heard.

Six months after the work began, Ms Raynor was so frustrated she told Hopkinson he should not come back to her house.

Hopkinson then accused her of fraud and said she was "playing the disability card" - after taking £13,500 of funds from the grant.

The case was heard at Preston Crown Court. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

A South Ribble Council building surveyor visited the home and listed a number of concerns.

Ms Raynor had to use her own money to pay for the work to be redone.

Her daughter also had to leave a volunteer position due to the stress of the situation.

Judge Unsworth KC said: "The winter was particularly cold and uncomfortable."

A few days after the building surveyor visited Ms Raynor's home, Hopkinson took on a second project and agreed to complete a loft conversion for Katie Sowerby for £24,300.

Ms Sowerby had researched builders online and came across Hopkinson on the website 'Trust A Trader'.

However the rogue trader later told officers one of his reviews, which described "a very respectful and reliable service", was written by a friend for a joke, including another review which was uploaded by his wife.

In November 2021, building control put a stop to the work on Ms Sowerby's house as it was causing damage to a neighbours property it was being done so badly.

Part of the roof was missing and the house was not waterproof.

By this point, Ms Sowerby had handed over £13,000 to Hopkinson, but building control valued the work at zero.

Judge Unsworth KC said: "You had no knowledge or skills in, not only construction, but building standards."

As a result of the poor work carried out, Ms Sowerby's home was so cold and damp that her baby developed breathing difficulties and was admitted to hospital.

The court also heard how her other child had to spend time away from the home as it was too uncomfortable.

Ms Raynor and Ms Sowerby were both forced to borrow money to put right the damage left by Hopkinson.

His customers suffered severe financial and emotional hardship as he "moved from victim to victim with ease", Judge Ian Unsworth KC said.

On Thursday 25 May, Hopkinson was sentenced to 20 months in prison after a judge said his shoddy workmanship "left chaos and devastation in its wake."