A “GREEDY and dishonest” fraudster who posed as a kitchen fitter has been jailed after defrauding customers out of thousands of pounds with an “appalling catalogue of lies”.

Christopher Willey was handed 19 months in prison after he repeatedly pretended his wife and parents had died to avoid completing building work he advertised on Facebook.

One of his five victims, a retired couple, paid the 59-year-old more than £10,000 to have a kitchen fitted.

But the pair were forced to fork out a further £9,000 to finish the job after they were left with no sink or running water and poorly-fitted doors.

Meanwhile a new mum was left without a working hob for three weeks after Willey lied about his colleague being involved in a car crash and she was “emotionally pressurised” to pay for £300 fridge-freezer twice.

Appearing at Teesside Crown Court, Willey, who has 22 previous convictions, and targeted homeowners in Northallerton and Northumberland from 2016 to 2018 was branded a “shameful and disgraceful” criminal.

Speaking of his first victim, Rebecca Brown prosecuting, said Willey “gave various excuses including his wife was leaving him, his mother had had an accident, was in a coma, and then she had passed away” when the customer complained about the kitchen work taking too long and being ill fitted

The woman, who forked out hundreds of pounds to correct his mistakes, later found the cheap worktop he eventually installed in B&Q and blamed the “nightmare” for causing arguments with her husband.

Among Willey’s other victims was a mum-of-three on maternity leave who paid almost £2,000 for a new kitchen but was left without a working hob after he duck-taped a plug to it and without a fridge freezer – despite paying for it twice.

The court heard the 59-year-old told a retired couple in their 70s that his wife died of a heart attack when the pair were left with a kitchen without worktops, door frames, a sink or running water.

Ms Brown said another builder described Willey’s work as “the worst he has ever seen” and that the ill fitted doors were “dangerous, unsafe and could eventually cause the wall to collapse.”

When another victim discovered Willey had lied about his father’s death, which he used as an excuse for not finishing the building work, he told her ‘not to do anything silly” or she wouldn’t get her money back.

Anthony Hawkes, defending, said: “His marriage broke down after his wife heard what had said. He has apologised about that although he has brought the matter entirely on his own head.

“You will not be surprised to hear that he has a number of explanations which I will not burden the court with.

“The defendant says he didn’t start out to run a dishonest kitchen company.

“He is sorry about the distress and inconvenience caused.

“He is from time to time capable of staying out of trouble and staying in employment but he has grand ideas of what he is capable of.”

He added: “He is 59, he ought to know better now.”

Sentencing Willey to 19 months in prison, Judge James Brown said he “has an astounding knack of lying” and “an inexhaustible amount of lies for any occasion.”

He said: “You used a catalogue of deceit and an incompetent level of workmanship. You offered to work and gave various excuses about why you could not complete it - you said people had died.

“It is an appalling catalogue of lies aimed at decent and hardworking people, they were ripped off in the most cynical way.

“There were potentially dangerous outcomes for the customers. You installed a gas hob and electrical work without being qualified. It was potentially serious and possibly fatal.

“The public deserve to be to be protected from people like you. It became a greedy and dishonest enterprise and you too advantage of good people.”

Willey, of Bullamoor Road, Northallerton, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud, two counts of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action, engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission and engaging in an unfair commercial practice.

County Councillor Andrew Lee, North Yorkshire’s executive member for trading standards, said: “Christopher Willey repeatedly took money from consumers for work that was not completed and goods that were not supplied.

"He then lied to them to try and gain their sympathy in a way that was particularly upsetting for them. I am pleased that the Court has finally been able to pass sentence on Mr Willey and award compensation to his victims.”

Consumers who need advice about similar problems or who would like to report a problem to trading standards should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454-04-05-06