Published: 11:32, 03 July 2018
| Updated: 13:50, 03 July 2018
A rogue trader has been jailed for ripping off at least 15 victims – including a police officer – after claiming to be a master builder.
Now a judge has told high-living Raymond Sharpless – who ran nine bogus companies - the only thing he was a master at was conning people.
New Romney man Sharpless pocketed £38,000 after talking victims into trusting his building skills.
Judge James O’Mahony told the 45 year old: “It is said that you are a skilled craftsman in the discrete field of restoration furniture.
“As for building work, floor laying, roof work, damp problems, plastering, renovation, electrics, you have as much skill an expertise as I have, which is nil.
“You put yourself forward as a master builder (but you were) a conman of epic proportions.”
Canterbury Crown Court heard how for 27 months he advertised in Kent, Sussex and London for building work – with vulnerable people included among his victims.
The judge added: “You caused them not only financial loss but serious distress and illness as a result of your greed.”
The court was told that Sharpless was “extremely plausible” and used every excuse he could find, including “charm, self-pity, invented illness and every stratagem in the book” to carry out his “campaign of fraud”.
“You put yourself forward as a master builder (but you were) a conman of epic proportions...” - Judge James O’Mahony
Sharpless drove around in top-of-the-range Mercedes and a Mitsubishi Warrior – while claiming the work couldn’t be completed because his truck kept breaking down.
The judge told him: “This was breathtaking greed. You took money up front and simply disappeared.”
Among his bogus companies were: Abbey Contracts, Abbey House Improvement, Kent, Abbey Roofing and Guttering of Kent, Thanet Driveway, Avondale Floor Sanding, First City Contracts, Hitec Plastering, Sussex Timber and Damp Specialists and Chelsea Restoration.
Sharpless also used many addresses as a “smokescreen” which prevented people from taking him to the civil courts.
Among his bodged work included him leaving live electric wires hanging from the ceiling in one house and playing upon the feelings of one vulnerable victim who later needed serious hospital treatment because of his “bogus empathy” had led to a breakdown.
Sharpless has now been jailed for five years and a month for the 15 frauds and two charges of fraudulent trading which he eventually admitted and banned from using his fake skills to get work.
The judge also banned him from being a director of any company for the next 10 years.
He now faces a financial investigation into the missing cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
As he was led away to begin his sentence, he paused, held his hand to his chest, before slowly walking to the cells.
A Kent County Council Trading Standards spokesman said: "Sharpless defrauded victims across the South East for 27 months, sometimes under his own name but he was also known as Mark Price, operating at least 11 different business names and three separate websites.
"The investigation carried out by KCC Trading Standards began in September 2015 after Sussex Police raised concerns for a victim in their area.
"A long investigation followed, revealing the full extent of his offending."