A COWBOY builder who fleeced victims in West Berkshire and Hampshire has been jailed for charging clients more than £250,000 for unnecessary repairs.

Serial conman Michael Wall lured his victims by claiming only minor works were needed.

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But once the 'repairs' had begun, Wall, 32, of Tadley, Hampshire, would artificially crank up the cost and scale of the job.

The fraudster fleeced at least five victims of £268,000 by telling them their homes - in Hampshire and West Berkshire - would be in tatters if the works were not completed.

A complaint from a victim sparked a year-long investigation into Wall - who traded as 'First Choice Roofing' - by Hampshire County Council and the Public Protection Partnership - a cross-council body in charge of fair trading.

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Wall pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and was sentenced to four years at Winchester Crown Court last Monday.

After the sentencing, Joint Public Protection Committee chair Councillor Hilary Cole (Corr), said: "This was a serious pattern of offending with five of the victims residing in the Public Protection Partnership area.

"Crimes of this nature know no boundaries, and this was a very good example of trading standards officers working closely together across council boundaries to investigate and bring to justice a serial offender.

"We are grateful to our colleagues from Hampshire County Council for their cooperation and support with this investigation and prosecution."

County council chief councillor Keith Mans, also praised the work of the trading standards officers to help bring about this conviction.

He said: "Our Trading Standards officers work tirelessly to protect residents from falling victim to illegal activities taking place in Hampshire communities.

"This case is a prime example where the skill and expertise of the team - from the investigation through to the sentencing - has been highly commendable.

Cllr Mans also directed members of the public to the county's Buy with Confidence scheme which provides a directory of "approved and insured" tradespeople.