JAILED COWBOY GARDENER HAS JUST MONTHS TO REPAY £400,000

JAILED COWBOY GARDENER HAS JUST MONTHS TO REPAY £400,000

A cowboy gardener who conned vulnerable victims out of almost a million pounds has been ordered to pay nearly £100,000 in compensation – on top of the almost £300,000 he already owes.

Benjamin Brown, 62, who was jailed last year for offering sham services, appeared at a confiscation order in court via video-link last week.

Judge Neil Stewart ordered Brown to pay £97,650 to his victims during the hearing at Guildford Crown Court on May 17.

He has three months to pay up or face an additional two years in jail.

Brown, from Epsom, Surrey, was jailed for three and a half years in October after pleading guilty to eight counts of fraud and four of money laundering.

During his sentencing Brown was told to pay £279,970.40 which he has yet to hand over.

He has now been given 28 days from May 17 to pay this, or be handed an additional two years in jail.

Between 2006 and 2012 he declared only £82,500 of his almost £750,000 earnings to the taxman, leaving around £665,000 undeclared.

He also targeted vulnerable victims across south east London and Surrey by advertising false services.

Using the trading name Greenfingers Gardening and Homecare Property Maintenance, he advertised services including landscape gardening, paving and fencing.

Brown, who was the chairman of the Surrey Travellers Forum, has previously spoken about the impact of a blanket ban on cold-calling on people’s homes were having on the Gypsy and Traveller community.

In February 2013, a retired woman saw Brown’s advert in the local newspaper and phoned him to carry out some landscape gardening.

Brown charged her £12,000, later reduced to £11,000, for work that he had been verbally quoted would cost between £4,000 and £6,000.

In a second case Brown was contacted by an elderly woman to carry out fence repairs in her garden after seeing his advert in the local paper.

She was charged £10,500 for a short run of fencing and a gate.

When Brown completed the fence he proceeded to lift the garden patio slabs, despite being told to stop by the pensioner.

Brown re-laid the path and charged her a further £1,500 which she paid.

When Brown was originally sentenced in October, Judge Christopher Critchlow ordered him to pay a £120 victim surcharge.

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