If you commit fraud by illegally trading services or products you face being prosecuted. That’s the warning from Torbay Council following a successful court case against a builder from Torquay.

Mr Lee Butterworth was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court on 20 May 2016 following his guilty pleas to offences under the Fraud Act, the Insolvency Act and the Proceeds of Crime Act. The total earnings of his fraud are thought to be in excess of £240,000.

These convictions come as a result of a lengthy and complex investigation undertaken by officers of Torbay, Devon and Somerset Trading Standards.

The offences related to Mr Butterworth’s business activities between June 2012 and April 2013 were he traded under various business names using the phrase ‘English Riviera’. This falsely led his customers to believe that his business had ‘Limited’ status, that he was registered for VAT and that he was entitled to charge VAT.

Mr Butterworth also failed to inform his customers that he was an undischarged bankrupt during this time. His victims confirmed that had they known of his status, they would not have employed him. Mr Butterworth then laundered the money earned from his fraudulent conduct, by arranging for payments to be made into his wife’s bank account.

Mr Butterworth was sentenced to two years imprisonment which was suspended for two years, the maximum 300 hours of unpaid work, a three month tagged curfew between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am, and a supervision order. His Honour Judge Salomonsen took into account Butterworth’s previous convictions for similar offences.

Torbay Council’s Executive Lead for Environment, Councillor Terry Manning said: “Through using the skills of two neighbouring council’s Trading Standards Services, we have strengthened our challenge against those who choose to rip off consumers and subsequently affect confidence in those who make an honest living. We will continue to work together to promote a fair and safe trading environment for residents of Devon”.

Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Devon Trading Standards service, Cllr Roger Croad, said: “The financial investigation has been important to this case, and it shows how joint working between councils can help pool skills and tackle the rogues. This benefits all the consumers in the area and helps establish a level playing field so that good honest businesses in the region can thrive.”

In the early stages of the investigation, Butterworth’s assets were restrained. Following this successful prosecution, proceedings have begun to recover assets of Butterworth’s criminal activities.

If you suspect illegal trading of services or products please get in touch with the Torbay Trading Standards Team by calling 08454 040506.

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