Stevenage scam victim, 70, receives hero award for help jailing con artist

Robert Wright from the College of Fellows charity, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, Hero Award winne

Robert Wright from the College of Fellows charity, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, Hero Award winner Maev Dunmore, and Chartered Trading Standards Institute chairman Malcolm Craig. Picture courtesy of the CTSI. - Credit: Archant

A pensioner who lost £28,500 to a roofing scam has received a hero award for helping to put the rogue trader behind bars.

Maev Dunmore, who lives in Stevenage, had been recently widowed when she used a website to state she needed work done on her roof in May 2015.

She was contacted by Thomas Lee, from Orpington in Kent, who increased an initial £60 quote to a whopping £28,500 within a week.

He convinced Mrs Dunmore of the urgency of the work to avoid imminent collapse and she felt she had no choice but to go ahead.

Initially, Maev found herself under investigation by the police for money laundering after her bank reported the large sums of money being withdrawn and cash transferred to the rogue builder.

They quickly realised she was a victim and the case was referred to Hertfordshire Trading Standards.

Despite deteriorating health and persistent coercion from the scammers, once the scam was identified Maev was able to summon the courage to help trading standards bring Lee to justice over a two-year trial.

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Now aged 70, Maev has received the Hero Award from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, which celebrates people’s outstanding contribution towards consumer protection.

About the scam, Maev said: “I was in a very vulnerable state, having lost my husband six months earlier, and suddenly my roof started leaking. I had never employed tradesmen before, but found one online.

“He was very convincing and brought me rotten pieces of wood that he had prepared, pretending they were from my roof, and I fell for it.

“I had to borrow money to pay him and began to feel very frightened of him, but I felt ashamed to ask for help. I kept a diary, which was used as evidence.”

Maev was nominated for the award by senior trading standards officer Yvonne Bartlett, who said: “Maev was left feeling very nervous, totally inadequate and frightened, and yet she fully supported the investigation. She is a brave lady and real-life hero.”

About the award, Maev said: “I am thrilled and delighted, but I’m not sure I’m a hero. I just wanted him off the streets so he couldn’t scam anyone else.”

Lee, of Barnfield Road in Orpington, pleaded guilty in October 2017 to five charges relating to fraud, aggressive commercial practice and acquiring criminal property and was jailed for 40 months.

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