A fraudster who conned thousands of pounds out of nearly 20 victims across Kent through the pressure-selling of concrete driveways and patios has appeared in court.
Arif Choudry was the sole director of Wycombe Welding Limited, previously trading as A Drive for Life, based at Kings Hill, Kent.
In a prosecution brought by KCC Trading Standards at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday (8 October), he pleaded guilty to 19 offences of fraud by false representation and one offence of money laundering.
The court heard evidence of fraudulent written and verbal representations made by Choudry to 19 victims, who lost a total of £30,000.
In a fraud described as sophisticated and persistent, carefully planned and professionally executed, Choudry induced his victims to enter contracts with the company by making claims that were completely false or created false impressions.
These included claims that that the company had completed major works at Chessington, had been established for more than 25 years, when it had in fact been incorporated in 2012, and that it was a family-run business. In fact, Choudry was a one-man-band, who used a variety of aliases in correspondence with customers, giving the impression of a large company with multiple departments. None of his victims knew his real name and he told them his name was ‘Al’.
When Choudry’s victims, many of whom were elderly or vulnerable, finally realised that they had been lied to and tried to complain, they were browbeaten, abused, threatened with court action by a fictitious legal department, or ignored.
Sentencing was adjourned until the 25 October to allow Choudry time to sort out personal matters.
Choudry had benefited £29,591 from his crimes and the court agreed an order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Should KCC identify assets or wealth in the future, it can pursue them and apply to the court for them to be forfeited.
Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said “This is an excellent result for Kent and its residents. I hope the persistence and determination of Kent Trading Standards to root out such individuals will provide reassurance to legitimate business and residents alike and send a clear message that we will take appropriate and proportionate action against those that operate outside the law.”
Clive Phillips, Operations Manager of Complex Investigations for Trading Standards, said: “Based on the advertisements of the company, its customers could be forgiven in thinking that they were dealing with a large, well-organised and reputable company. In fact, the claims were false, and its customer service was appalling.
“Due to the high numbers of complaints received and listening to how Choudry treated his victims, we had no choice but to take this action. The fact that Choudry made no efforts to change the trading practices of the company, despite multiple complaints, suggested that his actions were criminal.
“We always recommend researching who you instruct to carry out work, obtain at least three quotes and if you have any doubts do not agree to the work.”
Residents who suspect they have been defrauded can contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 for free advice. Kent residents looking for vetted and reputable traders can search online at www.checkatrade.com online or call 0333 0146 190.