Fake Show Home Behind Home Improvements Scam
Three men who conspired to defraud victims across London and the home counties have been found guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 24 November for their part in a property improvement scam. A fourth individual pleaded guilty to one count of fraud earlier in the proceedings.
The elaborate scam involved falsely posing as a building company – Contemporary Home Improvements Limited – to receive deposits for high-class building improvement works. Deposits worth nearly £800,000 were paid to the company, but no building work was ever intended to be undertaken.
The deception convinced homeowners that Contemporary Home Improvements Limited was a legitimate business through a range of lies and falsehoods, including:
- Using a kitchen extension built by someone else as a false show home to lure in payments from prospective victims
- Fake reviews on their website from those involved in the fraud
- False photographs of work apparently carried out by the company
- Visiting homes and pretending to be a qualified architect, including carrying a business card bearing the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) affix
Contemporary Home Improvements Limited was registered to an address in Camden and – following a sudden increase of complaints about the company in late 2017 – National Trading Standards investigators and the Metropolitan Police Service Fraud Investigation Team conducted a joint investigation in partnership with Camden Trading Standards.
The complex investigation led to charges against four individuals based on activities carried out by Contemporary Home Improvements Limited between February 2017 and October 2017:
- Brian Tutton (aged 62) who set up Contemporary Home Improvements Limited and has been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud
- Scott Baker (49) who has been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud
- David Gogo (29) of Barringer Square, Tooting, who has been found guilty of fraud
- Louise Shiangwang (49), of Grinstead Lane, Lancing, whose kitchen extension was used as the false show home and pleaded guilty to fraud earlier in the proceedings
The joint investigation meant that complaints and intelligence from different organisations could be combined into one single, larger investigation, avoiding duplication and pooling expertise.
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said:
“Contemporary Home Improvements Limited was built on dishonesty and deceit. Large sums of money were paid by victims for building work that the company and its director had no intention of carrying out. We welcome today’s verdicts and hope these results can provide some semblance of comfort for the victims.
“The sudden increase in complaints and the complexity of the investigation meant that National Trading Standards decided to support the investigation by the local team. I would like to thank all involved across the multiple enforcement agencies for all their efforts to bring these criminals to justice.”
Trish Burls, Chair of the NTS Tri Regional Investigation Team said:
“I’m pleased to report that our regional officers have worked alongside the Metropolitan Police Service in liaison with Camden Council Trading Standards, providing considerable support to a large and complex building and property renovation investigation. This operation demonstrates the value of partnership working and sends out a clear message that these crimes will not be tolerated.”
Councillor Richard Olszewski, Camden Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Transformation said:
“The fraudulent nature of this company, based in Camden, was brought to the attention of our Trading Standards team in 2017 when we received an influx of related complaints.
“Due to the geographic spread of the complaints and the complex nature of the fraud, Camden Trading Standards undertook a joint operation with National Trading Standards and the Metropolitan Police Service Fraud Investigation Team, which I am delighted to say has resulted in these successful convictions.
“It is gratifying to note that these dishonest individuals will not be able to defraud innocent homeowners again. I would like to congratulate Camden trading standards officers and all agencies involved for this successful outcome.”
Detective Sergeant Matthew Wigg, the investigating officer, said:
"This was a sophisticated fraud, which involved the victims being lured into handing over large sums of money for building work after they were duped by a fake show home.
"This investigation was a good example of partnership working as, after receiving a large amount of reports from Action Fraud and Citizen Advice Bureau, we collaborated with Camden Trading Standards and National Trading Standards to investigate the case. There were multiple complaints to all the different agencies, and we were able to link them together, identify victims and prosecute those responsible."
Camden residents who need consumer advice should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service; a government funded service.
Citizens Advice provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. You can call them on: 0808 278 7835 (Textphone number: 18001 03454 04 05 06), free from mobiles and landline, Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm or visit their website: www.adviceguide.org.uk
Camden Trading Standards works in partnership with Citizens' Advice consumer service. Complaints reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service are logged on a national database which we use to identify complaint trends and problem traders in our area.