Bogus Builders Jailed

A group of bogus builders and money launderers who conned a vulnerable Kent man out of his lifesavings and family home leaving him homeless have been jailed.

Alfred Ball, 38, of Iver, Buckinghamshire, Billy Nelson Smith, 26, formerly of Tillingbourne Green, Orpington, Richard Smart, 25, and Cheri Strugnell, 59, both of Sunbury on Thames, Middlesex, William King, 52, of Egham, Surrey, and Andrew Cole, 39, of Camberley, Surrey, were sentenced to a total of 19 years.

Maidstone Crown Court heard how Ball, Smith and Smart befriended their 63-year-old victim in mid-2010 and began to systematically drain his lifesavings of around £100,000 under the pretence of carrying out ‘building work’ on his house.

Once they had obtained the victim’s lifesavings, they convinced him to sell his £200,000 mortgage-free home in Chatham in January 2011 to an associate for half its market value and invest the proceeds of the sale into an alleged business venture which never materialised.

Within six days, the property had been re-marketed for £175,000 and eventually sold for £149,000.

Ball, Smith and Smart continued to take advantage of the victim spending his savings on numerous items including new vehicles and hotels.

The victim even purchased on old motor home to live in for a period of time, but this to eventually ‘disappeared’ and was found to have been scrapped by an associate of Ball.

But once the money had gone in July 2011, they discarded him and he became homeless having lost all his funds and succumbed to living rough on the streets. Owing to the concerns raised by the investigating officers for the victims welfare and safety he was reported missing and in September 2011 was found by police in Surrey climbing over a fence to sleep rough in a garden shed.

The victim now lives in charity-funded accommodation in Medway.

On 6 March, Ball was sentenced to eight and a half years imprisonment while Smith and Ball were sentenced to four and a half years each. King was ordered to serve 12 months in prison with Cole and Strugnall each sentenced to six months in jail.

Following the sentencing, DC Prior said: ‘The actions of this group have had a devastating impact on the victim who went from living in his mortgage-free family home of some 23 years with significant lifesavings to sleeping rough on the streets and in garden sheds.

"In particular, Ball, Smith and Smart took advantage of this vulnerable man and drained him for every penny he was worth and once the cash had dried up and they knew they couldn’t get any more from him, they abandoned him. 

"Although not involved in the conspiracy, Strugnell, King and Cole were instrumental in assisting the others in laundering some of the monies obtained from the victim during this criminal enterprise.  

"The victim is now being supported by a charitable group in the Medway towns and totally reliant on the state pension and benefits to pay for day-to-day living expenses but I hope today’s sentencing goes some way to helping him find a degree of closure from this ordeal.’