A ROGUE trader who conned an elderly Watchet woman out of her life savings for roofing work which she did not need has pleaded guilty in court.

Mervyn Rhys Richards, aged 43, of Swindon, has now been ordered by magistrates to pay nearly £40,000 in fines, costs, and compensation for his scam.

Rhys Richards convinced the pensioner to use her life savings for him carry out roofing work that was not needed after she advertised for help in March of last year.

He visited the property and told the elderly householder the repair could only be ‘guaranteed’ if the roof was replaced, at a cost of £27,500.

Later, the victim contacted Avon and Somerset Police to say she felt she had been a victim of a scam.

Police in turn contacted Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service which arranged for an independent surveyor to examine the roof.

The surveyor concluded the work was not reasonably necessary, Rhys Richards had overcharged for it, and the work was not in accordance with the invoice or British Standards, while the value of the work was estimated to be nil because of the remedial works which were required.

Trading standards then brought a prosecution against Rhys Richards, who traded as MR Build IT Property Maintenance, for an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Rhys Richards appeared in Taunton Deane Magistrates Court this week and was fined £6,500, and ordered to pay a £190 victim surcharge, £4,250 towards prosecution costs, and £27,500 in compensation.

He was allowed to pay at the rate of £5,000 a month, meaning it would take him until next July to clear the sum.

The case was heard by District Judge Angela Brereton, who gave Rhys Richards credit for his guilty plea and said he showed ‘genuine remorse’ and was committed to recompensing his elderly victim.

Somerset Council executive Cllr Ros Wyke said: “Yet again, another great example of our trading standards service safeguarding the community and taking rogue traders to court.

“If you are suspicious that something feels like a scam, please check.

“Simply visit Citizens Advice or call on 0808 223 1133.

“And remember, if a trader is genuine, they will not mind you checking.”

Trading standards operations manager Alex Fry said: “This case hopefully sends a clear message to rogue traders that where necessary we will put you before the courts.

“I would like to thank the victim in this case for coming forward and reporting the incident and supporting the investigation.”