An elderly widow was fleeced out of £13,800 by a rogue trader who carried out substandard roofing and cladding work on her home.

The victim, who lives in Marton, Middlesbrough, said that Alexander Brewis “saw me as a lonely old lady who was easily manipulated”.

She said it had shaken her confidence and now felt that “everyone is out to scam me”.

The money handed over was from savings that had been intended for the future care of the pensioner’s adult son, who lives with her and suffers from severe learning difficulties. 

Brewis, 42, of Farnell Grove, Hartlepool, was jailed for two-and-a-half years at Teesside Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation on the first day of a planned trial last September.

Another fraud charge and two counts of engaging in unfair commercial practice he had denied was left on file after the prosecution chose not to proceed with these.Darlington and Stockton Times: Some of the cladding work in the victim's bathroomSome of the cladding work in the victim's bathroom (Image: LDR)

The offences Brewis admitted dated back to December 2019 and January 2020 and the court heard the woman carried the burden of potentially having to give evidence against him during lengthy delays in the proceedings.

Brewis had been initially summoned to magistrates court over the offences, but failed to appear with a warrant being issued for his arrest.

The case was eventually listed for trial in August 2022, but vacated until the following year after the defendant’s son appeared in court to be sentenced for murder.

Brewis had cold called the victim together with another man and had originally been asked to provide a quote to clear her guttering of debris, but ended up also persuading her to pay £9,000 for repairs to the roof of her property.

The work carried out by Brewis was in fact only deemed to have a value of £275 with several defects found, including broken tiles and uneven flashing.

The following month he returned to fit plastic cladding to a bathroom after the woman complained of a water leak, although she had believed only a small amount of plastering was required.

This work again was said to be of poor quality with Brewis inflating a VAT sum he said was payable and charging the victim £4,800.

Brewis’s company Storm Roofing and Property Maintenance used a false address in Bradford and he was said to have deliberately targeted the woman on the basis of her vulnerability.

In total he received £19,300 from the woman, which included other repairs not considered by the court.

The woman, who was described as suffering from arthritis and diabetes, said she had lived in the same property for 45 years and her husband, who usually dealt with money matters, had passed away 17 years earlier.

She said she provided a statement for the Middlesbrough Council prosecution as she did not wish the same to happen to anyone else and hoped for some closure from a conclusion to the court case.

Tattooed Brewis had 31 previous convictions for 69 offences and had been made subject to a court order just last year as a result of a separate criminal matter.

He too was said to be in poor health, having been diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis, and being prescribed blood thinning medication as a result.

Judge Richard Thomas said Brewis had taken advantage of the woman and carried out “shoddy” repairs.

He said: “What work you did was next to nothing and very poor workmanship, fleecing her out of a substantial sum.

“This was deliberate and fraudulent conduct against this poor, elderly lady.”

Jailing Brewis, he said he had caused “real human harm and damage” over and above the value of the fraud committed which put his sentence into a higher category.

Judith Hedgley, head of Middlesbrough Council’s public protection service, said: “This despicable crime highlights how vulnerable consumers are being targeted by unscrupulous traders.

“Such crimes can have a devastating impact both on the state of the property, requiring immediate remedial action, and on the individuals concerned. This judgement reflects that.

“We will continue to use all enforcement means necessary to bring people to justice and protect vulnerable consumers.”