AN unqualified builder who set up his own company soon found himself out of his depth to the cost of customers he defrauded out of thousands of pounds.

Anthony Gray left clients with half-finished poorly-built extensions and loft conversions, having to pay reputable builders to complete jobs properly.

Durham Crown Court heard that although the ex-serviceman set out with honourable intentions, he did not have the skills or experience to take on the work.

He “robbed Peter to pay Paul”, trying to keep on top of unfinished jobs, in one case taking a £3,000 down-payment from a fellow former serviceman, but neither started the job or repaid any money.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said Gray’s business, running under the name Cathedral Home Improvements North-East Ltd, came to the attention of Durham County Council’s trading standards department.

When interviewed, in March and August, 2019, he made “significant concessions” over the quality of his work and of misleading customers, but carried on, regardless, to the cost of newer customers, including neighbours in Hartlepool.

Gray, 57, of Topaz Court, admitted five charges of fraud and fraudulent trading and asked for three further cases to be taken into consideration.

Mr Walker said the defrauded customers were left £39,600 out of pocket, but some were faced with paying further sums to rectify his deficiencies.

Ian West, mitigating, said: “He hopelessly under-priced some jobs, highlighting his incompetence on a career he embarked himself on.

“He way under-priced some jobs and was left robbing Peter to pay Paul, using money from new customers to pay for work for older customers.

“They lost out because he was bad at what he did.”

“He did not set out to rob these people, but, by the end it was a combination of dishonesty, bad workmanship and bad planning.”

Mr West added that Gray now works satisfactorily, for a West Yorkshire roofing company.

Recorder Jamie Hill QC said he accepted, there was, “an honest starting point”, but he said Gray soon left customers “in misery” and, in some cases, “in debt”, stealing the, “retirement home dream” for one couple.

Imposing a 27-month prison sentence he also initiated crime proceeds proceedings, to be heard later in the year.