A ROGUE builder had avoided being sent to prison after he raised almost £20,000 to pay back to his victims.

Andrew Cook ripped off two customers while carrying out work on their properties, leaving the victims significantly out of pocket and he carried out shoddy work.

Teesside Crown Court heard there were two complainants in the case – the first was left £11,800 out of pocket and the other £7,500 down.

The prosecution was being brought by the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council’s trading standards team following complaints from the victims after he failed to deliver on promises to carry out the work.

Andrew White, representing the council, said Cook had taken £7,500 in an advance payments for a restoration project on holiday cottage in Port Mulgrave but the customer refused to hand over any more cash after raising concerns about the quality of the work.

He said the second customer had paid out £11,800 for a restoration of a conservatory but Cook failed to get planning permission for the work and a subsequent building inspection ruled the work was sub-standard.

Mr White said despite concerns about the work the defendant continued to ask for more money but the homeowner refused.

The court heard how the builder also advertised services to carry out gas maintenance and used the Gas Safe logo despite never being registered with the safety organisation.

Cook, of Broadway East, Redcar, pleaded guilty to being a trader and knowingly/recklessly engaging in a commercial practice, as well as misleading action containing false information.

In September, Judge Jonathan Carroll deferred sentence to enable the builder to raise enough money to pay back the money he had taken from his unsuspecting customers.

Andrew Turton, in mitigation, said the businessman had carried out legitimate work to raise the cash needed for him to avoid an immediate prison sentence.

He added: "He is still in the trade and has successfully carried out legitimate and well done work in order to pay the funds."

The judge sentenced Cook to six months in custody but suspended it for two years.

"The primary purpose of deferring sentence was so that you could raise the funds to repay entirely the those people who had suffered at your hands when you had incompetently managed their building projects," he said.

Cook was ordered to pay back the money in compensation and carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The judge slammed Cook for using photographs of other people's work on his website in an attempt to lure customers and misusing the Gas Safe logo.

He added: "Those logos are important, people have to be able to trust them and to know that if someone has that logo they have the knowledge and experience to handle gas safely."