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Port Talbot home improvement company preyed on vulnerable consumers

A jail term handed to the director of a home improvement company who preyed on vulnerable consumers and made a series of false claims has been welcomed by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Protection, Cllr Leanne Jones.

Richard John Evans, of Brook Street, Port Talbot, a director of Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, was sentenced to 34 months in prison at Swansea Crown Court last week following a three year investigation by the council’s Trading Standards Department. 

A sales manager at the same company, and a director at a business closely linked with the company, SDG Home Improvements, were given suspended jail sentences.

Councillor Jones said: “We welcome the sentences delivered and are pleased the court recognised the financial loss and mental harm caused to the victims. Trading Standards takes a hard line on investigating businesses that flout the law and target the vulnerable in our area.

“The service is currently promoting the National Trading Standards run trader approval scheme Buy With Confidence which legitimate and responsible traders in Neath Port Talbot are encouraged to join. They can make enquiries with the department to join up and local consumers should check the Buy with Confidence website for approved traders”.

Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, trading from 3, Upper Bank Chambers, Briton Ferry, Neath, first came to the attention of Trading Standards officers in May 2018, after being found to falsely claim they were registered with Certass, the trade association of the glazing industry. The officers initially met with the company to advise on the printed and verbal (telesales) claims they were making as part of their sales pitch, following up the advice in writing. 

By October 2018, Trading Standards officers were receiving complaints about Crystal Style Home Improvements from across south Wales, the complaints including misleading sales practices, high pressure sales tactics and refusals to issue refunds when consumers cancelled within the cooling off period. 

The court heard aggressive sales tactics were used, which included salesmen sometimes staying at customers’ homes for up to five hours with artificially high prices quoted by salespeople in order to offer what appeared to be large reductions. Where work was actually carried out, it was of a poor and substandard quality.

Crystal Style moved to a call centre at the Water Street Business Centre in Port Talbot. Richard John Evans was now working with David Gater - employed as a sales manager.

Investigation by Neath Port Talbot Council Trading Standards officers led to warrants being executed at various addresses. Documents gathered linked Crystal Style with SDG Home Improvements, based in Station Road, Port Talbot. 

It became clear Richard John Evans was trying to dissolve Crystal Style and carry on trading as an "employee" of S Garvey & Co Limited, which traded as SDG Home Improvements. SDG Home Improvements was based in Port Talbot and run by Stephen Garvey. 

Although SDG Home Improvements did not operate a call centre, and its customer base was more local than Crystal Style's, the sales tactics remained the same. Monies in excess of £75,000 were paid out by customers of both Crystal Style Home Improvements and SDG Home Improvements.

Mr Evans and Mr Gater pleaded guilty to offences related to Crystal Style Home Improvements during December 2019. Both Richard John Evans and Stephen Garvey later pleaded guilty to offences related to SDG Home Improvements during October 2020. 

All three defendants appeared before Swansea Crown Court for sentence, on March 5th, 2021.  

The sentencing Judge, Recorder Malcolm Gibney, said all three had defrauded the public, and that Richard John Evans “told lies” to vulnerable people to make them part with their money. He concluded the “target customer” was elderly and vulnerable. 

As well as the 34 month jail term given to Richard John Evans, David Gater, who was found to have operated as “a lieutenant” to Mr Evans, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.  Stephen Garvey was given 24 months in prison, suspended for 24 months, with a 10 week curfew between the hours of 8pm and 7am.  In addition, Proceeds of Crime proceedings are ongoing in respect of Mr Garvey.

Both Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, and SDG Home Improvements, have now been dissolved.

If you wish to report any such incidents please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223113 or 0808 2231144 if you wish to speak to an advisor in Welsh.
 
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Mae dedfryd o gyfnod dan glo a roddwyd i gyfarwyddwr cwmni gwneud gwelliannau i dai oedd wedi manteisio ar gwsmeriaid bregus a gwneud cyfres o honiadau ffug wedi cael ei groesawu gan Aelod Cabinet Cyngor Castell-nedd Port Talbot dros Ddiogelwch y Gymuned a Gwarchod y Cyhoedd, y Cynghorydd Leanne Jones.
 
Cafodd Richard John Evans, o Brook Street, Port Talbot, cyfarwyddwr Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, ei ddedfrydu i 34 mis yng ngharchar yn Llys y Goron Abertawe wythnos diwethaf, ar ôl i ymchwiliad gael ei gynnal am dair blynedd gan Adran Safonau Masnach y Cyngor.
 
Derbyniodd rheolwr gwerthu yn yr un cwmni, a chyfarwyddwr mewn busnes oedd â chysylltiadau agos â’r cwmni, SDG Home Improvements, ddedfrydau o garchar wedi’u gohirio.
 
Meddai’r Cynghorydd Jones: “Rydyn ni’n croesawu’r dedfrydau a roddwyd ac yn falch fod y llys wedi cydnabod y golled ariannol a’r niwed meddyliol a wnaed i’r dioddefwyr. Mae Safonau Masnach yn sefyll yn gadarn o ran ymchwilio i fusnesau sy’n wfftio’r gyfraith ac yn targedu pobl fregus yn ein hardal.
 
“Mae’r gwasanaeth wrthi’n hybu cynllun cymeradwyo masnachwyr Prynu’n Hyderus / Buy With Confidence a redir gan Safonau Masnach yn genedlaethol, ac anogir masnachwyr cyfreithlon a chyfrifol yng Nghastell-nedd Port Talbot i ymuno â’r cynllun. Gallan nhw wneud ymholiadau gyda’r adran i ymuno a dylai defnyddwyr lleol wirio gwefan Prynu’n Hyderus i weld a yw masnachwyr yn gymeradwy.” 
 

Daeth Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, oedd yn masnachu allan o 3, Siambrau’r Banc Uchaf, Llansawel, Castell-nedd, i sylw swyddogion Safonau Masnach am y tro cyntaf ym mis Mai 2018, ar ôl canfod eu bod yn honni – yn anghywir – eu bod wedi’u cofrestru â Certass, cymdeithas fasnach y diwydiant ffenestri.
 
Cyfarfu’r swyddogion â’r cwmni am y tro cyntaf i’w cynghori am yr honiadau argraffedig a llafar (wrth werthu dros y ffôn) ffug roedden nhw’n eu gwneud fel rhan o’u hymgais werthu, a chyflwynwyd y cyngor unwaith eto, yn ysgrifenedig.
 
Erbyn mis Hydref 2018, roedd swyddogion Safonau Masnach yn derbyn cwynion am Crystal Style Home Improvements o bob cwr o dde Cymru, gan gynnwys cwyno am arferion gwerthu camarweiniol, tactegau gwerthu oedd yn rhoi pwysau mawr ar bobl, a gwrthod rhoi ad-daliad pan fyddai prynwyr yn canslo o fewn y cyfnod callio. 
 
Clywodd y llys fod tactegau gwerthu ymosodol yn cael eu defnyddio, oedd yn cynnwys gweld gwerthwyr yn aros yng nghartrefi cwsmeriaid am gyfnodau hyd at bum awr, a phrisiau artiffisial o ddrud yn cael eu dyfynnu gan werthwyr er mwyn cynnig yr hyn oedd yn ymddangos fel gostyngiadau hael. Pan fyddai gwaith yn digwydd, roedd o ansawdd tila ac ansafonol.
 
Symudodd Crystal Style i ganolfan alwadau yng Nghanolfan Fusnes Stryd y Dŵr ym Mhort Talbot. Roedd  Richard John Evans bellach yn gweithio gyda David Gater – a gyflogwyd fel rheolwr gwerthu.
 
Arweiniodd ymchwiliadau gan swyddogion Safonau Masnach Cyngor Castell-nedd Port Talbot at gyflwyno gwarantau mewn sawl cyfeiriad. Roedd dogfennau a gasglwyd yn cysylltu Crystal Style ag SDG Home Improvements, a leolwyd yn Stryd yr Orsaf, Port Talbot. 
 
Daeth yn amlwg fod Richard John Evans yn ceisio diddymu Crystal Style ac yn ceisio parhau i fasnachu fel ‘cyflogai’ i S Garvey & Co Limited, oedd yn masnachu dan yr enw SDG Home Improvements. Lleolwyd SDG Home Improvements ym Mhort Talbot a’i redeg gan Stephen Garvey. 
 
Er nad oedd SDG Home Improvements yn gweithredu canolfan alwadau, a bod cwsmeriaid y cwmni wedi’u lleoli’n fwy lleol na rhai Crystal Style, roedd y tactegau gwerthu yr un mor anaddas. Talwyd symiau o arian dros £75,000 gan gwsmeriaid Crystal Style Home Improvements a SDG Home Improvements fel ei gilydd.
 
Plediodd Mr Evans a Mr Gater yn euog i droseddau’n ymwneud â Crystal Style Home Improvements yn ystod mis Rhagfyr 2019. Yn ddiweddarach, plediodd Richard John Evans a Stephen Garvey yn euog unwaith yn rhagor i droseddau’n ymwneud â SDG Home Improvements yn ystod mis Hydref 2020. 
 
Daeth y tri diffinydd gerbron Llys y Goron Abertawe i gael eu dedfrydu ar 5 Mawrth 2021.
 
Dywedodd y Barnwr, y Cofiadur Malcolm Gibney, fod pob un o’r tri wedi twyllo’r cyhoedd, a bod Richard John Evans wedi “dweud celwydd” wrth bobl fregus er mwyn eu gwahanu oddi wrth eu harian. Daeth i’r casgliad fod y “cwsmer targed” yn oedrannus a bregus.
 
Yn ogystal â’r cyfnod o 34 mis dan glo a roddwyd i Richard John Evans, cafodd David Gater, y canfuwyd ei fod yn gweithredu fel ‘lefftenant’ i Mr Evans, ddedfryd o 21 mis yng ngharchar, wedi’i ohirio am ddwy flynedd, ac fe’i gorchmynnwyd i wneud 200 awr o waith cymunedol di-dâl. Rhoddwyd 24 mis yng ngharchar i Stephen Garvey, wedi’i ohirio am 24 mis, gyda gorchymyn cyrffyw o 10 wythnos rhwng 8pm a 7am.  Yn ogystal, mae achos Enillion Troseddau ar y gweill yn erbyn Mr Garvey.
 
Mae Crystal Style Home Improvements Ltd, a SDG Home Improvements, bellach wedi cael eu diddymu.
 
Os hoffech chi riportio unrhyw ddigwyddiad o’r fath, cysylltwch os gwelwch yn dda â Gwasanaeth Defnyddwyr Cyngor ar Bopeth ar 0808 2231144, neu 0808 223113 i siarad â chynghorwr yn Saesneg.