ROGUE TRADER Damon Owens, 34, from Silver Street in Cross Keys, Caerphilly, was sent to prison yesterday for 10 months at Cardiff Crown Court for 13 offences under consumer protection legislation.
The case was adjourned in February following elaborate claims in Owens' mitigation that he has memory loss after being shot in the back of the head when he was serving as a Royal Marine in Bosnia.
The court heard yesterday that although Owens did serve one year in the army, he wasn't a Royal Marine and never served in active service. In fact the injury to his skull was caused by a golf club through a ‘revenge attack' on Owens near Barry.
Owens also claimed that he was the sole carer for his child, which also turned out to be untrue.
The case against Owens related to two complaints that were received by the Shared Regulatory Service. The first was from Sam Hulland, who agreed a contract with Owens for a one storey extension to his property in Rumney.
In this case, Owens used the name Andrew Hansell, a previous friend who had passed away and agreed a fee of £33,750 to do the work, with a deposit of £16,875. When carrying out the work Owens damaged a sewer pipe and following his inability to fix the problem, Welsh Water became involved and it unfolded that the work undertaken was not being carried out correctly.
An independent surveyor examined the work and concluded that it amounted to "simply a few hundred pounds" and Mr Hulland had been "overcharged by at least £16,000."
The second complaint related to the defendant over charging a pensioner from Newport for a water tank repair. The pensioner was charged £240 for the call out and quoted a further £700 to repair the tank. As the job was being carried out Owens claimed that further work was required to the internal chimney breasts, which would cost £16,088.
A subsequent surveyors report indicated that it was extremely unlikely that the work would have been necessary.
Damon Owens used a number of different false names and false addresses so that customers could not find out about his previous offending.
As well as using the name of his friend who had died, Andrew Hansell, he also used the aliases of Dave Hansell; Dave Brown; Lee King and Christian Poole.
He also operated under a variety of trading names including Cardiff Construction; Fluid Emergency Plumbers; Scarlets Electrical; South Wales Plasterers; Cardiff Plastering Limited; Emergency Plumbers Bristol; Plumbers Bristol, Drain Repair UK and others.
Matthew Roberts, defending, told the court that his client had a history of anxiety and depression and was a "man with issues that hadn't been correctly explored."
In sentencing Judge Fitton said: "You (Owens) presented yourself as someone else practising from false addresses and false business names...you fooled people into thinking that you were a legitimate contractor and you are no such thing...You have showed a sophisticated pattern of offending involving care and forethought to disguise your identity and dishonesty.
"You never served in the Royal Marines and you were never in active Service.
"I am not going to suspend the prison sentence, you will receive an immediate custodial sentence. That is the impact of the lie that you told on the last occasion."
Cllr Michael Michael, Cabinet Member responsible for Shared Regulatory Services at Cardiff Council said: "This case and the sentence given should send a very clear message to rogue traders that their practices will not be tolerated and we will bring these matters to court when the evidence is available.
"We advise anyone who has experienced any issues such as this to contact Consumer Advice on 03454 040506 and the case will be passed through to our trading standards team, so we are able to investigate."
The Prosecuting Authority, Cardiff Council, asked for £12,500 in compensation and a further £10,000 in costs but the court heard that Owens has "no means" to pay.
Damon Owens was jailed for 10 months, and will serve half in custody with the other half of the sentence on license.