‘Bullying’ Telford boss jailed for conning elderly and vulnerable clients out of thousands
A business owner has been jailed for conning elderly and vulnerable people out of thousands of pounds.
Telford-based Walk In Showers and Baths, defrauded a series of customers through refusing to return deposits when they were requested during the legal cooling off period.
In total more than £20,500 was illegally kept, although all victims have since been given their money back.
Company director Michael John Lydon-Jenkins and general manager Teresa Dawn Browne both admitted nine charges of fraud and were sentenced at Stafford Crown Court.
The company, owned by Lydon-Jenkins, had also admitted five offences of fraud, between 2014 and 2016.
The charges related to nine customers who had all been denied their deposits.
Judge Jonathan Salmon was told that customers had felt intimidated and bullied as they tried to get their money back.
Judge Salmon said: “This is about a deliberate company policy, dishonestly operated so that those who sought to cancel contracts were denied their true cancellation rights.”
The court was also told that after the son-in-law of one victim contacted the firm for a refund via his own work e-mail account Browne then tracked his employer down and left a negative review on its website - despite knowing nothing about the firm.
Sentencing, Judge Salmon said: “When customers did seek to cancel the company operated in a standardised form, it was aggressive in the manner in which it dealt with such customers, while professing sympathy for their position but saying they were contractually bound to pay the sums of money.”
He added: “This occurred at a time when you knew the practice was dishonest.”
Lydon-Jenkins, 71, is from Halesfield in Telford, and Browne, 45, is from The Rock, in the town.
Lydon Jenkins was jailed for 26 months while Browne was given a 21-month sentence, suspended for two years.
As part of her sentence Browne will also have to complete 250 hours of unpaid work and pay £5,000 costs.
The company was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.
Sentencing Lydon-Jenkins, Judge Salmon said: “I am entirely satisfied you were the clear driving force behind the institution of this dishonest policy in the company.
"You were aided by enthusiastic support from Miss Browne but she was relatively young in the company and it is clear she looked to you for guidance and it is clear you encouraged her to look for ways to act dishonestly.”
Elderly victims left ‘ashamed’ by their ordeal
Elderly and vulnerable victims have given an emotional account of how Lydon-Jenkins and Browne defrauded them of thousands of pounds.
In a statement Elizabeth Ridley told how her mother had been affected. She said: “My mum was a vulnerable 77-year-old, housebound elderly lady who fell victim to their bullying behaviour.
“Because of what happened she felt foolish and ashamed.”
Heather Aylott explained how Browne had targeted her son-in-law’s company when he tried to get her deposit refunded.
She said: “Teresa Browne contacted my son-in-law’s company via email to cause a problem for him as he had initially used his company email to contact the company. She also left a negative review on their website, again trying to cause trouble and using threatening comments towards him.”
Barbara Bradford, the wife of a former customer, said: “It was hard enough to manage with just my husband’s illness but I felt angry that I had allowed myself to be taken in and ultimately lost £1,500 of our money. Although the money was returned in July last year, it does not remove the stress and upset I went through.”
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