Plumber guilty of fraud leaves more families thousands out of pocket
PUBLISHED: 06:30 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 31 July 2019
A plumber who escaped punishment at court because of his bad back faces fresh allegations today of walking out on projects despite being paid thousands of pounds.
Two more customers have spoken out against convicted fraudster Stuart Otter who they claim was paid nearly £9,000 to renovate their homes, but he instead left the jobs before they were finished.
Another project which he failed to start, despite being paid £1,475, landed him in Norwich Magistrates' Court in January this year, where he pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation. He has since paid some of that money back, he said.
In a tearful submission to magistrates, Mr Otter, 41, of Moyes Road, near Oulton Broad, said he had been off work for 15 months because he had a bad back and needed the money to pay off mounting debt.
The magistrates let him off with a conditional discharge, meaning he will be only be punished if he commits another crime.
Speaking of the complaints made against him, Mr Otter admitted he had made mistakes but defended his ability as a plumber, stating he has worked 180 jobs in the past six months with no problems.
Kenneth and Sylvia Lynn hired Mr Otter to renovate a bungalow they had just bought in Clerk's Piece, Beccles, in November 2017.
He was initially asked to do the plumbing but the couple agreed he would take on the whole project for £8,000.
Mr Lynn, 79, said Mr Otter promised the work would be done before Christmas.
The couple claimed Mr Otter would not show up on some days after complaining of a bad back and in the end he only completed some of the work.
By December 8, the couple claim that Mr Otter had been paid £5,900 in total and they never saw him again. They said their house was left in a mess.
"We had a conversation not long before Christmas, he was in a very hectic state," Mr Lynn said.
"I felt sorry for him, I thought he was in trouble so I tried to give him extra time, but he never showed up.
"I really thought he was a nice chap."
Because of the delays they could not move in and had to spend Christmas in an empty property they own in Hackford near Wymondham.
Mr Lynn said: "We had dinner on a picnic table and slept on the floor. It was the worst Christmas of my life."
Speaking to the EDP, Mr Otter disputed the amount of money that he was paid to carry out the work at the Lynn's property.
He said he had not return Mr Lynn's calls because they had a falling-out over the work.
Marie Andrews and husband Paul, meanwhile, claim that they paid Mr Otter £2,848, to renovate their bathroom in February 2018.
But she said the job at Oval Avenue, Costessey, was completed so poorly it had to be redone costing them another £4,050.
Mrs Andrews claims Mr Otter did not appear on some days because of his back problems but he requested small amounts of money for materials until the entire £2,848 invoice was paid.
According to Mrs Andrews, Mr Otter told them the job was complete but she noticed plaster splattered on the walls, cracked units and poorly fitted tiles. A sewage pipe later leaked into the walls and white mould appeared in the adjacent bedroom.
They last heard from Mr Otter in March 2018 when they claim he promised he would return to inspect the work and fix errors.
But seven months later, the couple and their children - aged 12 and 14 - were left using the kitchen sink as a makeshift shower after the problems in the bathroom worsened.
The couple, both 41, used their savings to rectify the damage.
Another builder was hired in October and the entire bathroom was ripped out.
The family had to spend two months showering at work and swimming pools.
Mrs Andrews said: "He caused me so much grief."
When asked about whether he felt he did a bad job in Mr and Mrs Andrews's home, Mr Otter responded: "If I remember she had an old fitting leaking which I did not replace as it looked okay."
He admitted he had made mistakes but said that the court appearance had "a huge impact" on his life.
"Going to court was the best thing for me, scared me massively," he said. "All I ever wanted to do was to help people but you need to know it was not always my fault."
When asked why he had not responded to Mrs Andrews's called, he said: "I don't know."
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council Trading Standards said: "We are aware of Stuart Otter and have received complaints against him. These complaints are being monitored by Trading Standards."
-Contact Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506
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