A company director who defrauded 16 householders out of tens of thousands of pounds for shoddy home improvement work has been jailed for more than three years.

Rebecca Wilson, 40, let Riverside Resin Ltd sign up homeowners then leave them with poor, faulty, unfinished or non-existent work, costing 16 victims at least £100,000 over two years. When they complained they were ignored, dismissed or fobbed off with excuses or false promises between 2019 and 2021, Teesside Crown Court heard on Friday (November 24).

Residents in Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, New Marske, Darlington and County Durham complained after paying for improvements to driveways, paths, patios and garages, some having been cold-called. Work by the Billingham-based firm ended up crooked, cracked, slippery, riddled with holes or “unusable”.

Rebecca Brown, prosecuting for Stockton Council, said the customers’ total loss was estimated at almost £160,000, including the thousands it would cost to put sub-standard work right. One job risked electrocution, others were so terrible they would need demolishing or stripping and rebuilding for five-figure sums.

Victims told of their suffering, stress, anxiety, depression, heartbreak, frustration and sometimes ruinous effects of the “cowboy” work. They spoke in statements of the “black clouds” left by the experience and mistrust of tradespeople since. One customer took the company to county court and won, but still never saw any money.

Co-accused David Gillies, 43, spent 16 months as a company director, when he offended against seven of the victims before resigning in June 2021. He admitted being negligent by failing to change the company’s practices and using a “hopeless” builder and other staff not skilled or equipped for the job.

Ms Brown said he “promised the earth” with a 25-year guarantee to one customer, only to send workers who cut corners. He told another she would be able to “empty a jacuzzi” on a resin driveway which ended up uneven and leading to damp in the garage.

One victim who paid £4,000 said he “endured two months of David Gillies sending over people who didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t care”. He was described as rude, mean and inappropriate by another customer who saw him jumping on an outbuilding roof saying: “There’s nothing wrong with it.”

Wilson, of Anlaby Close, Billingham, admitted 17 counts of fraud and 15 of unfair trading. She had a previous conviction and suspended prison sentence for 10 similar unfair trading offences in 2017, when she was known as Rebecca Dack, over poor work to driveways and gardens by another home improvement company, and had been warned about business practices and complaints years earlier. Gillies, of Victoria Avenue, Redcar, pleaded guilty to eight unfair trading charges.

Robert Mochrie, defending Wilson, said it was accepted the business was not set up to deceive people and there were other customers who received an adequate service. He told the court: “She wished through me to apologise to all of the customers or victims for her behaviour. She is very sorry for the upset that it caused them.

“There have been troubles in her life and she has struggled herself financially. Through her own mismanagement and recklessness, she accepts that this descended into fraudulent activity, but she was becoming increasingly desperate herself to keep far too many plates spinning.”

She sobbed in the dock as Mr Mochrie told how she had escaped a relationship with “emotional and physical abuse” where she was repeatedly assaulted. He asked for the single mum-of-four to be given another chance, given the impact on the children who depended on her.

Paul Abrahams, for Gillies, said he tried to repair and “paper over the cracks” of work that needed to be ripped up and started again: “He was trying to make amends. Of course it wasn’t enough, nor is an apology.”

Judge Christopher Smith told Wilson: “You allowed promises to be made which you knew the company could not or might not be able to keep, to fulfil the agreed work to a satisfactory standard. You failed to listen to so many warnings about your incompetent and dishonest trade in this line of work.

“I’m satisfied that across your 16 victims the loss here was undoubtedly at least £100,000. You were at the helm of this fraudulent behaviour.”

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He said he had heard victims’ stories: “They are all depressingly similar. Stories of homeowners whose lives have been at least spoiled, sometimes ruined, by the anxiety, stress, loss of trust that they now have in tradesmen.”

Wilson was jailed for three years and one month. She was also banned from being a company director and given a criminal behaviour order preventing her from working in driveway or resin surface installation or offering home maintenance or improvement services, both for eight years.

Gillies received an eight-month prison term suspended for 18 months with 240 hours’ unpaid work.