Yorkshire landscape gardener gambled away payments from customers whose jobs he never completed

A landscape gardener who admitted to problem gambling has been sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months after pleading guilty to five counts of fraud.

Keith Albert Wilson of Maple Gardens, Sowerby, Thirsk, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in respect of payments he took from consumers to supply materials and undertake landscaping work which was never completed.

A hearing at York Crown Court was told on May 12 that the frauds, for amounts between £814 and £5,197, totalled £11,758.

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North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards service began an investigation into Wilson’s activities after it received complaints from five consumers in Thirsk, Northallerton and York.

Unfinished work in a customer's garden

Wilson advertised on Facebook as KAW Landscapes, and in one case had been recommended to a customer by his own partner.

The court heard that Wilson had gambled away £45,583.31 over a seven-month period. Wilson, who admitted to problem gambling, said that he had intended to complete the work when he took the money but accepted he had not been honest with the consumers when they asked for money to be returned when work was not completed.

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Sentencing Wilson, Judge Simon Hickey said: “Every person is entitled to believe a builder will turn up and carry out work.”

Having heard personal statements from victims, Judge Hickey awarded compensation to be paid in full to each complainant at the rate of £400 per month. He said to Wilson: “I’m not going to send you to custody today. It’s not appropriate. You’re not a risk to the public and you are capable of working and repaying the community.”

Wilson will have to complete a community order with 150 hours of unpaid work and 25 days’ rehabilitation order.

The county council's assistant director for growth, planning and trading standards Matt O'Neill said: “Consumers place a great deal of trust in tradespeople when they hand over their hard-earned cash as a deposit for work or building supplies. It is unacceptable that some traders then treat that money as their own without completing work or supplying materials.

“We are pleased that the court has recognised the impact that such offending has on the affected consumers in the sentence passed today.”