A cowboy builder who promised to create an extension for a disabled 11-year-old then conned his parents out of thousands has been jailed. Jonathan Ross Bell, known as Black, took £95,000 from trusting families but often failed to complete the work.

One couple, Paula and Michael Cryan, handed Bell thousands to build an extension for their disabled 11-year-old son but the work was left unfinished and not up to scratch. A court heard the Cryans, from Dudley, North Tyneside, were just one family to fall victim to the dodgy trading practices of a series of companies run by Bell. Recorder Tony Hawks told him: ‘The people who have suffered at your hands are ordinary, decent people, some of whom say they chose to employ you because they wanted to employ what they thought were local, reputable firms. ‘Well, you let them down very badly. In some cases people have had their personal savings go down the drain.’

The court heard it was in September 2015 that Michael Cryan was given a leaflet in the name of Viking Home Improvements, one of the companies run by Bell. The Cryan family were left out of pocket (Picture: ncjMedia He quoted them £29,000 and requested a £2,000 deposit to pay for building regulations, in total they paid £28,800, of which £6,000 was for bi-fold doors which were never supplied. Susan Hirst, prosecuting, said: ‘Mrs Cryan then became concerned that the building inspector had not been out to the site, so she raised this with the defendant and he replied that the inspector was due to attend the following week. But when Mrs Cryan called the council and she was informed that no building regulations application had been made. Miss Hirst said: ‘When Mrs Cryan reported this to the defendant he replied that he had no money left and was unable to finish the job.’

Kind hearted tradepeople to the rescue

The family received a lot of attention from the local press and were left overwhelmed when big-hearted tradesmen came to their rescue to do the work for free. The cowboy builder left much of the work unfinished

Another couple were left £42,170 out of pocket after asking another of Bell’s firms – Jenkinson Glaziers North East Ltd – to build an orangery extension and an extension above their garage with a view to caring for their elderly parents. Miss Hirst said: “In total they paid £42,000 to the defendant but very little work had been carried out on the project. ‘The couple had to employ another builder to complete the work at a cost of £50,842. ‘The total loss to them is therefore £35,317 (£93,807 total paid minus £58,490, what it should have cost).’

Another couple lost £1,750 after handing over a deposit for windows and doors to Jenkinsons Glaziers but when they changed their mind within 14 days Bell failed to refund them, as he was obliged to do. And another man handed over £3,000 for roofing materials but they never arrived and he never got his money back.

The former army man pleaded guilty to five offences of engaging in an unfair commercial practice, in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. But North Tyneside Council, who prosecuted him, said that was just the tip of the iceberg and they have spent hundreds of man hours on the case after receiving more than 70 complaints. Now the 45-year-old, of Cullercoats, North Tyneside, has been jailed for 18 months at Newcastle Crown Court.

Avoiding Fraudsters

If you feel either yourself or your relatives may be at risk of being take advantage of, make sure you contact a Checked and Vetted tradesperson at least to price up or give you advice on the job separately. Our members are all trading standards approved, which means they undergo a range of thorough checks that many tradespeople working independently simply couldn’t pass.

If you’d like to contact one to check what you’ve been told is true, or to ensure that you can trust the person working in your home, contact one through our website here, or call us on 0191 65 111 65 to arrange a call-back from a suitable tradesperson.