Suffolk building fraudster who appeared on Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders is jailed

Ipswich Crown Court.

Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk builder who faked his own cancer diagnosis has been sentenced to 45 months in jail after pleading guilty to 18 offences relating to contract fraud.

Carl Shrubshall, of Moat Lane, Rougham, was the director of Beckwill Builders Ltd in Bury St Edmunds when the offences - involving building work on four separate homes - took place.

The 46-year-old, who was once featured on the Channel 5 show Cowboy Builders, told a “catalogue of lies” and committed dishonest practices in order to secure building contracts from April 2010 to November 2012, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

On one occasion, the court heard how Mr Shrubshall told a customer he was undergoing a course of chemotherapy for three to four weeks when he was actually on a luxury holiday in Florida.

Once contracts were secured, he would then lie about work being done, overcharge customers and leave the job unfinished, falsely claiming that he would have to be in hospital for a prolonged time due to a diagnosis of cancer.

The court also heard how he provided false and doctored references and gave a false address to a client so as to appear local.

Other offences included hugely exaggerating the size of his workforce – to secure a building contract worth £369,323, Mr Shrubshall falsely claimed that he had a workforce of 22 people, but the court heard he never had more than six.

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The investigation, led by Suffolk Trading Standards, also discovered the fraudster committed offences relating to taking money for providing utilities services, either by not fulfilling these services or falsifying invoices relating to the cost of the utilities or over-inflating the cost.

The total sum of money involved in the house contracts is said to be just over £700,000, with Mr Shrubshall benefiting to the sum of nearly £300,000.

Summing up Judge Devaux made reference to the “numerous and varied lies” that Mr Shrubshall had used.

The judge also referred to the victims’ personal statements, which highlighted the “utter chaos and despair” and the “damage to family relationships” Mr Shrubshall had caused to them.

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and public protection Matthew Hicks said: “Having building or home improvement work done can be difficult and there are certain things you can do before you employ builders to try and make sure the job goes as smoothly as possible.

“These include using Checkatrade, getting references for work, doing your research on companies before you sign a contract, and agreeing costs and how long the job should take before any work has begun.

“Mr Shrubshall is now a convicted fraudster who has caused emotional and financial distress to a number of consumers. We are delighted to get justice for all those defrauded.

The court also heard Mr Shrubshall took money from customers for Local Authority Building Control (LABC) warranties – insurance to cover the cost of rectifying works, partial or complete rebuilding at a later date – without providing paperwork or registering the properties.

The LABC’s managing director Phil Hammond said: “Our enforcement powers are used with work that contravenes the building regulations and is dangerous or threatens health and well-being.

“When it comes to criminals who defraud home owners, we support Trading Standards who have the relevant legal powers for dealing with conmen.

“In this case, one of the things this criminal did was to pretend he had obtained an LABC warranty, charged the client and then created a false trail of documents.

“This had nothing to do with the building regulations and was a complete rip-off.

“Trading Standards did a great job in gaining the evidence and the conviction.”