Frustrated customers have claimed they have been left out of pocket after a handyman took money for work that was never completed.

Kesgrave woman Lisa Palmer, 57, approached Alex Sparkes in December when he answered her plea for a "reputable mechanic" on Facebook.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kesgrave woman Lisa Palmer, 57, was targetted by Alex Sparkes in December.Kesgrave woman Lisa Palmer, 57, was targetted by Alex Sparkes in December. (Image: Lisa Palmer)

"My car broke down and needed a new engine," said Ms Palmer.

"I'm a woman on her own, need my car for my business and was completely in a panic."

Ms Palmer said Mr Sparkes attended her property twice, the first time for a diagnostics check, for which she paid a £40 call-out and petrol fee and the second time to fit an £80 sensor.

"I already knew I needed a new engine and he priced it up at £5,000 to £6,000," she said.

"In the few hours after that, he bombarded me with calls and messages to get the go-ahead."

After paying a £200 deposit on the engine, the problems began and Ms Palmer was left without her car for three months.

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At £670 down, she ended up having to go elsewhere to get her car fixed.

Mr Sparkes also responded to a Facebook post from Stowmarket resident Judith Tilston, 61, in May this year, claiming he could fix her daughter's motorbike.

East Anglian Daily Times: The rogue tradesman also private messaged Stowmarket resident Judith Tilston.The rogue tradesman also private messaged Stowmarket resident Judith Tilston. (Image: Judith Tilston)

"My daughter works 14 miles away on a farm, which made it impossible when the bike broke down," said Mrs Tilston.

"We were desperate. All the garages were booked up for several weeks, so we put out a message on Facebook."

Mrs Tilston said Mr Sparkes claimed he knew someone in a broker's yard who could replace the engine and supposedly carried out the work.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mrs Tilston's daughter needed her motorbike's engine replaced to get to work.Mrs Tilston's daughter needed her motorbike's engine replaced to get to work. (Image: Judith Tilston)

She claims he carried out the work in the dark and the engine still wasn't operating correctly the next day.

Now with £650 in Mr Sparkes' possession and no guarantee they would get their money back, the family have had to pay £250 for an engine rebuild elsewhere.

Angie Monkman also encountered the same tradesman on Facebook, as she asked for someone to fit a thermostat.

East Anglian Daily Times: Angie Monkman was also targeted by the 'cowboy tradesman'.Angie Monkman was also targeted by the 'cowboy tradesman'. (Image: Angie Monkman)

"I gave him the money and he didn't turn up," she said.

"Eventually, he left a grotty old thermostat in my post box, but never gave me a refund.

"I just want this man stopped."

Mr Sparkes declined to comment.

A Suffolk Trading Standards spokesman warned people to do their research before agreeing to have any work carried out.

The spokesman added: "Don't be fooled by sign printed vans, glossy leaflets, business cards or a website.

"While it might be tempting to agree to low prices being offered on the doorstep or by someone contacting you via social media, think twice."

Suffolk Trading Standards' advice is:

  • Never agree to have any work done as a result of a cold call or contact via social media and don't be pressurised into having the job done immediately
  • If you think work needs doing in your home or you need something repaired, get quotes from two or three traders
  • Ask for the full name and address from a trader before considering dealing with them, and never rely solely on a mobile phone number
  • Ask for a written quotation detailing all the proposed work and a final price for the job before the work is started
  • Only pay once the work is completed to your satisfaction. Don't pay up front for materials and don't pay cash.

If you have had work carried out by a trader that you are not satisifed with, or work has not been completed, contact Suffolk Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service line on 0808 223 1133.