A DODGY tradesman who committed fraud against four families to the value of almost £40,000 has been jailed for 21 months.

Preston Crown Court heard that between 2017 and 2018, Umran Suleman, 39, took money from customers but failed to complete jobs or carried out shoddy work.

He also misled customers by trading under false names.

Prosecuting, Jack Troup told the court that Suleman had responded to requests from people who were asking for traders on various Facebook groups and buying and selling sites.

However, he did not use his real name and instead set up a guise under the name John Roberts of Right Choice Building Contractors.

When Suleman attended each property to provide quotes for building work, again he concealed his true identity by giving his name as Immy, or in some cases, Jimmy.

Mr Troup said: “This was sophisticated offending conducted over a period of time to conceal the defendant’s identity.

“He set up a Facebook account in the false name of John Roberts and posed as a man called Immy or Jimmy when carrying out the work.”

The court was told that under the guises of Immy and Jimmy, he accepted around £16,000 from the first complainants, £798.50 from the second complainants, £1,860 from a third complainant and around £20,000 from a fourth.

He set up a bank account in his real name in January 2017, which he used to receive the money from the complainants, while also pocketing thousands in cash.

It was heard that in all the cases, work was carried out to an unsatisfactory standard, not completed, and invoices and documents were presented which did not contain a business address or contact number for a John Roberts.

In fact, Suleman, posing as John Roberts, was only ever in contact with the complainants via social media, email, or Whatsapp.

Suleman also failed to provide contracts giving the claimants a 14-day notice period to cancel any work should they wish, and when questioned about the work, refused to accept responsibility or give refunds, passing the blame on to John Roberts, who didn’t exist.

Mr Troup added: “The result of all this has been terrible trouble for all the complainants. One took out a loan and had sleepless nights and nightmares about the mess.

“When interviewed in April 2018, Suleman claimed he had purchased the business from John Roberts but wasn’t in contact with him, but was responsible for the paperwork.

“There were questions put to him to which he responded with no comment, and then when he was asked in writing who John Roberts was, he responded ‘don’t know’.”

Suleman, who has 12 convictions for 36 different offences, the most recent of which were for similar offences dating back to November 2017, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation, six counts relating to being a trader engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading omission and one count of being a trader who knowingly and recklessly engaged in a commercial practice.

Judge Andrew Woolman sentenced Suleman, formerly of Regents View, Blackburn, to a total of 21 months in prison.