Kitchen fitter jailed for fraud after trading standards investigation

A fraudster who fitted substandard kitchens and also failed to supply kitchen units that had been paid for, was today sentenced at Teesside Crown Court following a North Yorkshire Trading Standards investigation.

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Christopher Willey, formerly of Bullamoor Road, Northallerton, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment at Teesside Crown Court today after previously admitting 4 offences of fraud and 4 offences of trading unfairly. This sentence was reduced to 18 months in recognition of Willey’s guilty pleas but increased by four weeks for his failure to surrender. He was therefore imprisoned for 19 months in total. 

The case was brought by North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards Service who began their investigation after receiving a complaint from a Northallerton resident who had been contacted via Facebook by Christopher Willey after she had posted that she was looking for a new kitchen.

The investigation revealed other consumers in Northallerton, Washington in Tyne & Wear and Blythe in Northumberland, who said kitchens had been falsely described to them as Benchmarx kitchens by Willey and that they had paid for items which had not been fitted or supplied.

The court heard that Willey breached standards of professional diligence in the fitting of two kitchens which were of a poor standard and which he then failed to repair or remedy. He failed to provide his address to one consumer so she could not contact him to seek a refund for the problems with her kitchen.

He also lied to explain away his failure to complete work and gain sympathy. He told one consumer that his mother was in a coma and that she had died and another that his wife was seriously ill and then that she had died. 

Willey had pleaded guilty at York Magistrates’ Court last November to 4 offences, contrary to the Fraud Act 2006, for taking money totalling £4,450 to supply a fridge freezer, Corian worktops, bi-fold doors and kitchen units, a hob and oven and then never supplying the goods.

He also pleaded guilty to 4 offences of trading unfairly contrary to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Following representations from the prosecution, the magistrates decided that their sentencing powers were insufficient and they sent Willey to Teesside Crown Court for sentence on 19 December 2018.

Willey failed to attend the hearing in December 2018 and two further hearings in January 2019, and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. Willey was arrested on 27 June 2019 and taken to Teesside Crown Court. At that hearing, His Honour Judge Armstrong remanded Willey in custody until the sentencing hearing set for today (July 11 2019)   

His Honour Judge Brown said on sentencing that Willey is “a glib and practised liar” who had “ripped people off in a prolonged and cynical way.” 

County Councillor Andrew Lee, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: “Christopher Willey repeatedly took money from consumers for work that was not completed and goods that were not supplied. He then lied to them to try and gain their sympathy in a way that was particularly upsetting for them. I am pleased that the Court has finally been able to pass sentence on Mr Willey and award compensation to his victims.”          

Consumers who need advice about similar problems or who would like to report a problem to trading standards should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

This story was published 11 July 2019