The three were sentenced as follows:
– Brian Tutton, 62 of no fixed address was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He was also disqualified from being the director of a company for ten years.
– Scott Baker, 50 of no fixed address was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. He was also disqualified from being the director of a company for five years.
– David Gogo, 30 of Barringer Square, SW17 was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment – suspended for two years – and to complete 160 hours of unpaid work.
A fourth defendant, Louise Shiankwang, 50 of Grinstead Lane, Sussex, had pleaded guilty earlier in the proceedings to having allowed her home to be used as a fake show home. She will appear at the same court for sentencing on Monday, 14 February.
A joint partnership investigation was launched in February 2018 between the Met’s Fraud Investigation Team and Camden Trading Standards into the dealings of Contemporary Home Improvements.
The investigation followed more than 60 complaints from members of the public passed to the Met by Action Fraud. Similarly, Camden Trading Standards had received a high volume of complaints mirroring those allegations.
Following a complex financial investigation and the collection of dozens of witness statements, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) authorised charges of ‘conspiracy to defraud’ from 7 February 2017 to 27 October 2017 against all four defendants.
The trial was delayed due to Covid regulations but was finally held from 4 October 2021 to 24 November 2021 where Tutton and Baker were convicted of conspiracy to defraud.
Gogo was convicted of one count of fraud by false representation.
Shiankwang had previously pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by false representation.
During 2017, the defendants accepted £800,000 in deposits from people across the Home Counties for building work that was never carried out. During the investigation it became clear that there was never an intention to complete any of the agreed works.
The frauds were led by Brian Tutton who set up Contemporary Home Improvements using a virtual office address at Shelton Street in London. Tutton and his team responded to 62 enquiries advertising their services as ‘rated contractors’.
Tutton also approached Louise Shiankwang and made a deal to use her kitchen extension to falsely show prospective victims around her house as a Contemporary Home Improvements show home. Tutton had not been involved in any of the work carried out at Shiankwang’s home and she was paid for allowing her home to be used.
Detective Inspector Matt Wigg, who was the investigating officer, said: “People are often embarrassed when they find they have been duped by a fraudster, but these defendants had worked hard to present themselves as a reputable, reliable and genuine building company, it would have been difficult for anyone to see beyond the fantasy they had created.
“Tutton ran a website that detailed the building work completed at Shiankwang’s home giving the impression that the work had been done by him. The victims had been visited in person by sales representatives to provide their deposits for the work they wanted done and were offered additional discounts if they allowed their home to be used as a ‘show home’ for Tutton’s work. The deposits were small amounts taken by credit or debit card and these were later followed by large deposits made via bank transfer. All of these things bolstered the impression of reliability.”
Each of the defendants played a different part in the scam. Tutton was responsible for setting up the company’s background and public face. Baker was the salesman who visited the clients personally and took their deposits. Gogo posed as the company architect who also visited clients pretending to be responsible for completing plans for the works – in reality Gogo was not a qualified architect, but carried a fake business card with the affix of RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) under his name which gave the impression to victims he was a qualified Architect.
Enquiries made with the Federation of Master Builders revealed that Tutton and Contemporary Home Improvements were struck from their register when they became aware of complaints made that Tutton used a false example of building works at Shiankwang’s home. The ‘show home’ was a key ingredient of this fraud, which convinced many victims that Tutton was a builder and ran a legitimate building company.
Sadly many people were shown around this home believing they were going to have building work completed. In reality they were giving their hard earned money to criminals who had no intention of completing any building work. Not a single brick was ever laid by Tutton or anyone working for him.
Tutton put the company into administration in late September 2017. At that time, victims were still making deposits for work that Tutton knew would never be started.
DI Wigg, added: “This was a callous and calculated scheme to take money from members of the public under completely false pretences. I hope that this sentencing brings the victims a sense of closure in the knowledge that justice has been done.”
Wendy Martin, Director, National Trading Standards, said: “These deceitful fraudsters went to great lengths to conceal their dishonest operation behind a glossy facade, enabling them to con trusting homeowners into handing over large sums of money for building work they had no intention of carrying out. Our teams work hard to protect consumers and today’s sentences are a reminder that criminals who engage in these types of scams will be prosecuted.”