Ellesmere Port man prosecuted at Chester Crown Court for fraudulent trading
15 September 2020An Ellesmere Port man has defrauded customers out of a total of £40,000 for gardening work that then never took place.
Michael Aston (32), of Pooltown Road, Ellesmere Port, had pleaded guilty to one offence of fraudulent trading in June this year and was sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Monday 14 September.
Mr Aston was sentenced to 10 months prison (suspended for two years), 200 hours unpaid work and £7,000 compensation, to be paid back to victims.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Trading Standards team investigated after they received several complaints from local residents about the business.
The offence concerned the operation of his business, M A Gardening which had a strong social media presence, particularly on Facebook and the ‘Pride in the Port’ group.
Aston requested large deposits from his customers and also asked for staged payments ahead of agreed times. The defendant would then offer a wide range of reasons as to why he was unable to complete the agreed work within a reasonable timescale.
The court heard details of offences spanning a 20-month period which has had a significant impact on individuals and the wider community. When customers expressed concerns that agreed work was not carried out he became defensive and requested further time to complete the job, but he still failed to finish it. Some witnesses resorted to posting poor reviews of this company on the internet. This was met with an even stronger reaction, many customers received aggressive and upsetting messages.
Councillor Karen Shore, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport said: “This type of activity will not be tolerated in Cheshire West and Chester. Our Regulatory Services officers work hard to protect residents in the borough from unscrupulous individuals willing to scam innocent people into handing over large sums of money.
“The defendant’s actions have caused considerable distress and anxiety to many people around the borough and beyond. I hope the outcome of this case sends a clear message to anyone considering criminal business activities.”
In summing up Judge Nicholas Woodward said Aston had caused considerable frustration, anxiety and stress to his victims by failing to perform, meaning they now distrust other legitimate traders.