Handyman sentenced after conning elderly victims out of thousands of pounds for shoddy gardening

Mochan told one victim who was a wheelchair-user that he wouldn't leave until she paid him. Credit: Media Wales

A handyman has been sentenced after he pressured vulnerable and elderly people into gardening work before demanding money from them.

James Mochan, 35, conned his victims out of thousands of pounds and carried out shoddy work or left jobs unfinished.

The court heard how Mochan of Bridge Street in Aberdare targeted two houses in Caerphilly, while a third victim lived in Newport.

Prosecutor Thomas Stanway explained how the defendant cold called his first victim, an elderly married couple in April 2021, where it was agreed he would lay a patio and build a retaining wall for £950. However, when he turned up the next day it became clear he had little building knowledge.

Mochan was paid £300 up front but when he was confronted about the state of the work, he threatened to put the couple "all over Facebook" and told them he "knew where they lived". He demanded the remaining £600 and left the work unfinished, going on to admit he had "ripped them off" and told them they "wouldn't be getting their money back".

In a victim personal statement, the woman victim said: "Since our incident with the defendant and having him at our home to do work, we have as pensioners felt vulnerable and will never let a stranger into our property to let anything like this happen again."

She said she was worried Mochan would return to the property and had experienced panic attacks, describing him as "a show off" and "smarmy".

The case was heard at Cardiff Crown Court. Credit: PA

A second victim agreed for Mochan to remove some bushes and tidy up her garden, but he requested £500 otherwise he wouldn't complete the work. He drove his victim to a nearby cashpoint where she took out two lots of £250, before driving her back home and snatching the money from her hands.

Mochan did not return with the victim making a report to trading standards to say she was "absolutely gutted".

The third victim was a wheelchair-user and advertised on Facebook for work to be carried out on her garden. Mochan turned up at her house in May 2021 and offered to cut down some shrubs. Before a price was agreed, he returned with a chainsaw and began his work before the victim shouted at him to stop.

A fee of £1,100 was agreed and the victim initially transferred him £600. The defendant failed to provide any official paperwork or cancellation rights, failed to show on a number of occasions and laid gravel without a concrete foundation.

The victim transferred another £500 but she later confronted him about the standard of the work and took a photo of him working. Mochan demanded another £300, to which the victim refused, but he stood over her and said: "I am not going until you have paid... I will sit here until you do." She agreed to the transfer and the defendant left, so she called the police. He returned three days later and demanded more money, but she refused again.

In a victim personal statement, she said: "I felt there was repeated pressure regarding further work required and I felt pressured to give more money. I paid him £300 because I was frightened... I should never have let him start the work but I was too frightened to tell him to leave."

Mochan was arrested and later pleaded guilty to four counts of engaging in commercial practice which was aggressive, engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information, participating in fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader, and two counts of knowingly/recklessly engaging in commercial practice contravening reg 3(3)(a) distorting behaviour of average consumer.

In mitigation, Tim Evans said his client was a father of three and his partner was expecting another child. He said Mochan was also a carer for his wheelchair-bound uncle and asked for the defendant to receive a suspended sentence, so he could be punished in the community.

Sentencing, Recorder Andrew Hammond said: "These were repugnant offences where you particularly targeting vulnerable and elderly people, bullied them into complying against their wishes and in one case gloated at them after the event. You are a disgrace."

Upon sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday (December 10), Mochan was sentenced to a total of 24 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay a total of £2,820 in compensation to his victims.