'Sick and twisted' builders conned customers and made off with £30K

A judge banging his gavel
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)


Two "sick and twisted" builders made off with thousands of pounds belonging to their customers after failing to deliver on work they had promised. Stone mason "crooks" Thomas Shea, 41, of Bodiner Lane, Penzance and James Stanton, 42, of Doubletrees Court, Par, took on new jobs and either never completed them, did a shoddy job, or never ordered the materials and kept their customers' cash.

Between late 2021 and spring 2023, the pair were approached by chalet owners at the Retallack Resort and Spa in St Columb Major, the Perranarworthal Cricket Club, and homeowners in Redruth and St Ives to carry out various types of building and renovation work.

On each occasion, the pair, from the Par area, would agree on a quote price and ask for a deposit. But then the work was either never completed, or was attempted then stopped and abandoned or done to a really poor standard.

They were caught out after a trading standards investigation, launched by Cornwall Council, and they have now appeared at Truro Crown Court for sentence after being charged with several counts of fraud and operating a fraudulent business. The pair narrowly avoided a prison sentence.

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Jason Beal, prosecuting on behalf of Cornwall Council, told the court that Shea and Stanton, either individually or under the LD Masonry, JS Masonry and County Walling South West company names, would consistently ask for more money for materials which they would not order, would promise start and completion dates but disappeared from jobs and never returned.

When contacted by their victims, the two crooks, who this week pleaded guilty, would bamboozle them only to stop all communication. In the end, the pair defrauded their customers to the tune of £30,000.

The holiday homeowners at Retallack Resort said in a victim impact statement that the fraud and mess left on site by Shea and Stanton had come on the back of the Covid years and had impacted their ability to rent out the properties and receive an income from them.

The Redruth homeowner said the experience had been extremely distressing while the homeowner in St Ives added: "I have been overwhelmed to try and have my house look less than the mess they left behind. My 80-year-old father has had to help me to move the materials left in the house. I feel sad I have been scammed. I was gullible and I fell for these sick twisted crooks."

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Shea and Stanton both have previous convictions for similar fraud offences, dishonesty and theft, with Stanton receiving a seven-year prison sentence in the past from Chichester Crown Court for such crimes. Katie Churcher, defending Shea, said he is someone who is skilled and can complete building work to a decent standard but "struggled to manage his life".

She said: "He accepts that he can't manage big jobs where promises made cannot be kept, but smaller jobs he can do. He is keen to pay back the money but he asks for more time to do so."

Hans Dieter Kehler, for Stanton, said he is the main breadwinner as his wife and mother of their four children does not work. He said Stanton has been trying to resurrect his business after a stint in prison and is therefore "not flush with cash", adding: "He's moving on with his life and is becoming more responsible."

His Honour Judge Robert Linford said the irony of it all is that both Shea and Stanton are good stone masons who can actually do a job to high standards but had taken on too much work.

He said: "People were let down. Work was done to a poor standard or not done at all. People have suffered as a consequence. Your actions have caused heartache to a lot of people. You are both accomplished in your trade. You knew what to do and how to do it but the easiest option for you was to take the money and run. That's fraud."

Sentencing the pair to 18 months in prison suspended for two years and 100 hours of unpaid work, Judge Linford also ordered Shea and Stanton to repay the thousands of pounds they defrauded their customers and warned them that they are now on Cornwall Council's trading standards' radar and everything they do will be scrutinised.

Stanton was ordered to pay £9,224 compensation to the owners of holiday lodges and £2,585 to another customer. Shea was ordered to pay £9,224 compensation to the owners of holiday lodges, £7,750 to Perranarworthal Cricket Club and £5,932 to another customer.