An alleged rogue trader was shopped to the authorities by a set of cowboy builders fleecing an elderly homeowner, a jury heard. 

Police were called after the pensioner allegedly came under pressure to sell the 100-year-old detached home in Wytham Street, Oxford, where he’d lived for 60 years, under an equity release scheme that would have seen him paid £87,500 and allowed to live in the house rent-free for the rest of his life. 

Jurors at Oxford Crown Court heard that the alleged scam was unmasked when a set of rogue traders who were – separately - charging the homeowner for below-par or unnecessary home improvement works called Thames Valley Police. The force handed the case over to Oxfordshire Trading Standards. 

Lewis McEwan, who is said by prosecutors to have proposed the equity release scheme, denies conspiracy to defraud. The trial continues. 

The court heard that a man calling himself ‘Geoffrey Simmons’ knocked at the pensioner’s home in Wytham Street in August 2018 and said that the new block paving at the front of his home needed to be sealed and sprayed with weed killer.  

The work would cost £3,000, Mr Simmons said. The OAP agreed to the price and handed over the sum in cash. The trader suggested he lie to his bank about why he needed the money, prosecutor Richard Heller said.  

Another £3,500 was asked for after Mr Simmons said that more work was needed to fix the drains and the house was subsiding.  

Later, the trader called the homeowner and said the work would cost more than he originally thought and suggested an equity release scheme. He was said to have found the proposal ‘tempting’. 

McEwan visited the Wytham Street house a few days later, jurors were told. He was accused of telling the pensioner the work would cost a lot of money and could only be achieved through an equity release scheme. That scheme would see the homeowner part with his home in exchange for £87,500 and would be able to live in the house rent-free for the rest of his life. 

Within days, McEwan was said to have sent a letter from his firm, White Star Investments (London) setting out the proposed equity release. The defendant called the alleged victim, who said he was no longer interested. ‘Mr Simmons’ was said to have called several times trying to pressurise the OAP into signing over his property and also pretended to be from Trading Standards.  

Prosecutors claim that the property was, firstly, structurally sound and not in need of urgent repairs. Second, they say McEwan and ‘Simmons’ sought to deprive the alleged victim of a ‘substantial amount’ of money in the home – offering £87,500 where the house was worth around an estimated £600,000. 

McEwan, of Whitewebbs Lane, Enfield, denies conspiracy to defraud. The trial continues.