Crooked plumber charged woman ten times his estimate to renovate bathroom

A rogue plumber with a gambling addiction charged a customer ten times his original estimate after she hired him to redecorate her bathroom.

Claiming the boiler in her Exeter home was leaking, James MacMartin replaced it twice, then devised other unnecessary work to drive up his bills.

He failed to give her proper receipts and forced her to pay more and more money by claiming she would get it back in the council grants.

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MacMartin was gripped by a gambling addiction but was spared an immediate jail sentence after overcoming it and promised to pay back the money.

His victim lost most of her savings and had to postpone her retirement because she can no longer afford to retire.

She was a distant cousin who trusted him as a member of her family and even shared hugs with him after coming home upset from a funeral.

Woodbury view at Cowick Lane
Woodbury view at Cowick Lane

MacMartin, aged 30, of Woodbury View, Alphington, admitted fraud and was sentenced to 20 months in prison, of which two years were suspended by Recorder Miss Kate Brunner, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He was ordered to pay £20,000 in damages, 100 hours of unpaid community service and 20 days of rehabilitation and a three-month curfew.

The Recorder told him, “This was a persistent and creative deception that had a profound effect on the victim, whom you trusted because you were her family.”

Prosecutor Joss Ticehurst said MacMartin quoted the client £3,400 to refurbish her bathroom but was ultimately paid £35,846.

There was some legit work in this figure, so the total loss was estimated at £20,000.

Shortly after he started the work, he told her that the boiler was leaking and needed to be replaced at a cost of about £4,000. He then said the new one was also faulty and got a second payment.

The guy who fitted the first said he couldn’t see a leak in the original boiler. MacMartin told her that the wiring also needed to be replaced and charged her hundreds of pounds for the work.

He told her he needed money to access grants and maintain his Gas Safe registration, even though he wasn’t actually on the register.

She set up a system to pay him through internet banking in response to texting requests for cash, and the fraud only came to light when her bank withdrew the payments and called the police in March last year.

She said MacMartin had been very caring and they shared hugs from time to time, but her opinion had changed by the time she made a victim statement earlier this year.

She said she now finds it difficult to trust anyone and worries about her financial future and suffers from anxiety and stress.

Miss Hollie Gilbery, on the defensive, said MacMartin had been open with the police from the start and is now seeking professional help for his gambling addiction.

She said he has not gambled since his arrest and is working hard to repay the money. He lives with his parents who help him care for his three-year-old daughter and have offered to lend him £10,000 to pay compensation.

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