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Conman jailed for targeting elderly and vulnerable Thame residents with unnecessary work

A roofing company director has been jailed for 27 months for fraudulent trading in several communities across Buckinghamshire.

Kumarapan Kunaratnam targeted elderly and vulnerable residents – some in their 90s – with a package of roofing work that Aylesbury Crown Court on Friday (June 9) heard was unnecessary, of poor quality and overpriced.

Mr Kunaratnam, of Peterborough Road, Harrow, a salesman for Future Homes Development Ltd and sole director for Top Home Roofing Ltd and Top Home Group Ltd, admitted three counts of carrying on a business for fraudulent purposes during 2014 and 2015.

Prosecuting, Gary Pons recounted a catalogue of cases in which elderly and vulnerable residents were cold-called, and left a marketing leaflet about roofing repairs containing false claims about the materials used.

Then Mr Kunaratnam would price up the job, offer a misleading discount and get a signed contract.  No explanation was given of a cooling-off period or cancellation rights, and by signing the contract, the residents had inadvertently waived their statutory cancellation rights. Contractors would turn up to start the work either the next day or a few days later.

In one case, said Mr Pons, work was quoted at £8,096, and reduced on discount to just over £4,500, but an expert called in later said the total cost of a new roof would be less than this, and the work done was only worth just over £600.  Mr Kunaratnam quoted for this work despite the fact the householder had had his roof cleaned only six months earlier for £200.

In another case, Mr Kunaratnam discounted the price by £2,000, but left such a mess around the house and garden, with loose mortar and broken tiles, that the resident’s nephew tried to get hold of the company to complain. But when he phoned, he found the company had ceased trading. The expert subsequently confirmed the works had been carried out so poorly they had no value.

Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards officers and Thames Valley Police started investigating Mr Kunaratnam’s activities after a tip-off from the family of one of the eight victims.

They visited the three homes in Chesham, one in Little Chalfont, two in Thame, and others in Staines and Datchet, with chartered surveyor Charles Leigh-Dugmore, who inspected and costed the value of the works. The court heard Mr Leigh-Dugmore said customers had been grossly overcharged for work that was unnecessary, of poor standard or not carried out at all.

Judge Tulk said Mr Kunaratnam’s actions were premeditated: being involved in the production of leaflets containing false claims about building materials used and cold-calling, as well as sub-contracting the work and taking payments.

“You deliberately targeted several elderly people and couples,” Judge Tulk told Mr Kunaratnam.  “You were actively involved, not just as the director, but on the front line. You were the brains and hands of the company.”

She ordered him to pay compensation of £10,000 and banned him from being a company director for ten years.

Anne Wight, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, paid tribute to the meticulous Trading Standards and Police investigation.

“This case gives a very clear message to those who would prey on our elderly and vulnerable residents, that we’ll go to great lengths in striving to make Buckinghamshire a no-go area for doorstep criminals,” she said. 

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