Rogue trader jailed after charging pensioner £42k for small patch of artificial grass

The artificial grass installed in the resident's garden Credit: Reading Borough Council

A rogue trader tradesman who charged an elderly gentleman £42,000 to lay a small patch of artificial grass as well as other overcharging for work at his home has been jailed for 32 months.

Michael Gorman carried out garden repairs at the 90-year-old's home in Caversham over six months, gradually inflating costs for the work, but it was the huge bill for the artificial grass which raised suspicions with his bank.

Despite originally quoting £2,300, the 47-year-old conned the elderly resident into writing a cheque for £42,000 for the nine square metre patch of artificial grass – which would equate to £4,666 per square metre.

The actual value of the work, including material and labour, was just £1,880.70.

When the first cheque was not honoured due to insufficient funds, the resident was pressured by Mr Gorman to write another, for the lesser amount of £38,000, to pay in part for installing the artificial lawn.

After this second large cheque was produced to Lloyds Bank in Reading, the protective staff became suspicious and followed set bank protocols.

Thames Valley Police were called and worked with the Council’s Trading Standards Team who initiated a subsequent investigation.

The team, which investigates unfair trading and illegal business activity such as rogue traders and scams, discovered the resident first hired Mr Gorman to remove some trees in November 2021 trading under the name ‘MG Garden and Tree Services’.

He had seen a classified advert in a local neighbour magazine Round and About, offering “expert advice”, and “a good job for a fair price with no hidden extras”.

After removing the trees and a wire fence, the resident was charged £900 but was not given a receipt. There was no prior discussion about the price or any written quote, contract, or invoice provided by Mr Gorman.

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Between November 2021 and April 2022, Mr Gorman made several phone calls to the resident and returned to his property multiple times to carry out additional garden work.

This included the installation of a new fence for £1,400 and the removal and installation of concrete paving for £12,500, the actual cost of the work should have been just over £4,000. On both occasions, there was no discussion around cost, no quote or contract before the work started, or any invoice given on completion and payment.

On 8 April 2022, the resident wrote a cheque to Mr Gorman for £500, this was a deposit for the installation of artificial grass in his garden, for which Mr Gorman initially quoted a price of £2,300. When the work was completed on 19 April, this price had inexplicably risen to £42,000, an increase of more than 1800%.

At an earlier hearing on 29 January 2024, Her Honour Judge Heather Norton, sitting at Reading Crown Court, told Mr Gorman he had acted disgracefully to a vulnerable pensioner who had no family to help him maintain his home in St John’s Road, Caversham.

The gentleman very sadly passed away at his home a few weeks before Christmas 2023.

Mr Gorman, 47, of Hartley Wintney, Hook, admitted three counts of fraud at a hearing at Reading Crown Court on 2 January 2024.

Due to finances, the defendant was not ordered to pay any compensation or court costs.