Rogue trader jailed for conning customers out of thousands of pounds

Robert Cooper
Robert Cooper

A rogue trader from Horbury has been jailed for conning customers out of more than £11,000 for work he failed to carry out.

Robert Cooper was sent to prison for two years and eight months after a judge heard how he ripped off a terminally ill man even after he was arrested.

A court heard police and trading standards were inundated with complaints from the more than 20 customers who fell foul of Cooper’s kitchen and bathroom business.

Cooper, 61, who traded as RCA Home Designs based in Horbury, tricked customers who responded to flyers he delivered to homes in Leeds, Wakefield and other areas of West Yorkshire.

Leeds Crown Court heard Cooper was a “hopeless” businessman who set up his home improvements firm in the middle of a recession.

Cooper collected deposits ranging from £100 to £2,000 for new kitchens and bathrooms that he knew he would never deliver.

His flyers made claims of ‘VAT free’ and ‘free oven and hob’.

Customers handed over a deposit but sound found Cooper difficult to get hold of.

Despite being arrested on two occasions, Cooper continued offending while on bail, taking further deposits from unsuspecting consumers.

The court heard one man had terminal cancer. Cooper began work at another victim’s home but failed to finish it and left it looking like a “bomb site”.

An investigation revealed Cooper, now of Spring Hall Gardens, Huddersfield, to be a man of no financial means who had been using the deposit money to live on.

Cooper admitted fraud and asked for three similar offences to be taken into consideration.

Katherine Goddard, mitigating, said Cooper was of previous good character and had previously been a hard-working man.

Sentencing Cooper, Judge Christopher Batty said: “You simply disappeared off the face of the earth, and this was before the real dishonesty.

“You pocketed their money or used it to support the other ailing elements of your business.”

He added: “You were taken to court. Did this stop you? Apparently not.”

Among Cooper’s victims was retired US Army officer Edward Kirkman, 83, who has mobility problems.

The grandfather-of-three, of Crofton, told the Wakefield Express: “We had been thinking about getting a new bathroom, then low and behold this leaflet came through the door. I should have know it was a con but I didn’t.

“He cheated me out of £800. It’s not going to break me but it’s more than my pension each month.

“The jail sentence is more than I expected. I expected him to get a suspended sentence. But I was pleased he got two years and eight months but I don’t expect any of the money back. It would be nice if I could but I don’t think I will.”