Cornwall builder conned homeowners out of £80k

  • Published
James Lee KnightImage source, Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption,
James Lee Knight had a "knack of being charming but in reality he was just dreadful", said one homeowner

A "charming" conman builder who defrauded people out of more than £80,000 for building work he failed to complete, has been jailed.

James Lee Knight, 44, took money from eight homeowners in Cornwall between January 2017 and September 2020.

But most of the work was of such a poor standard it needed to be re-done by other firms.

He admitted nine fraud offences, one theft and one of criminal damage after Trading Standards investigated.

On Wednesday he was sentenced to two years and three months in prison at Truro Crown Court.

The court heard that Knight, from Reawla, near Hayle, advertised his building services on Facebook under the names of Jay Knight or Jay Knight Masonry.

'Dream to nightmare'

Jane Tibbs, 69, from Wells, Somerset, said Knight "seemed to be genuine" and had a "knack of being charming".

She had bought a retirement home in Illogan last year and was quoted £12,910 by Knight for a two-storey extension.

But she ended up paying him more than £23,000 for work that was of a very poor standard and unfinished.

Image source, Jane Tibbs
Image caption,
The work Jane Tibbs had done had to be knocked down

She has since paid another builder more than that again to knock down Knight's work, using up all of her savings.

Speaking after the case, she said her "dream of moving to Cornwall to be near my family turned into a nightmare".

She added: "His original quote was really reasonable and I suppose I should have thought then that it was too good to be true.

"You take a builder to his word, he seemed to be genuine. He had this knack of being charming but in reality he was just dreadful."

Recorder Simon Levene told Knight he was a "dishonest builder" who took his "clients for a ride", adding he "took a lot of money from them and then did a terrible job".

He ordered the defendant to pay £86,913 in compensation, but accepted Knight's financial situation meant he "did not know" if his victims "will ever see their money."

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