Builder who conned Honiton pensioner jailed

PUBLISHED: 11:53 29 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:22 30 October 2012

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW


Seven-month sentence for Exmouth-based Lee Smith.

A builder has been jailed for taking thousands of pounds in deposits and failing to carry out the work.

One of his victims was a Honiton pensioner.

Lee Smith, 27, also swindled a pub landlord out of £250 by telling him an untrue sob story about needing the money to go to his grandmother’s funeral.

Smith had run a successful family building company in Exmouth but lost control of his finances after his father retired to Sri Lanka, leaving him working on his own.

Smith, of Victoria Road, Exmouth, admitted three offences of fraud and was jailed for seven months by Recorder Mr Frank Abbot at Exeter Crown Court.

The recorder told him: “You have taken advantage of people.

“You knew what you were doing and it was thoroughly dishonest.

“You have to appreciate you have come to the end of the road here.

“You have previous convictions for a whole series of dishonesty offences.

“You took advantage of people to try to keep your business going but I take into account you can do decent work.

“Why on earth you can’t do that all the time is beyond me.

“You were either incompetent or dishonest and I cannot say this was purely incompetence.”

Mr Alex Allsop, prosecuting, said customer Marion Hall, who runs a diving school in Exmouth, hired Smith to tarmac her drive after her husband heard good reports of his work from friends in a pub. She paid him £350 up front but he did not do any work at all and returned on a regular basis to ask for more money, eventually taking a total of £2,100.

The next victim was 68-year-old Raymond Naylor, from Honiton, who had used Smith’s firm in the past and hired him to renovate a shower room. He paid £2,050 but no work was done. Smith swindled £250 cash out of pub landlord Michael Todd by selling him a television which he never delivered.

Mr Allsop said: “He told him a sob story that he needed to travel North to visit relatives after the death of his grandmother.

“As far as we know, this was not the case.”

Mr Joss Ticehurst, defending, said Smith was a hard working and respectable builder until his father emigrated to Sri Lanka and left him to cope on his own.

He said: “His problem is that he can’t run a business. He got into a financial pickle and it led him to this offending. There was an element of self deception. He put his head in the sand.”

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Midweek Herald. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Midweek Herald