Ilford Town Centre at night

East London builder banned from carrying out future construction works for seven years following Redbridge Trading Standards investigation

Published: 22 March 2024

A rogue trader who conned nearly £70,000 from people in Redbridge for unfinished construction works has been slapped with a Criminal Behaviour Order.

The order effectively bans Matthew Collins from working in the building, roofing, gardening, or landscaping professions for seven years. Matthew Collins had earlier appeared on 1 June 2023 at Snaresbrook Crown Court when he pled guilty.

Collins of Cat Hill, Barnet, was sentenced to two separate two-year imprisonments to run concurrently. The sentencing was suspended for two years.

As part of his punishment, Collins has been disqualified from becoming a Director for seven years and is not to have any part in forming contracts or handling clients' money in future employment. He must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and complete an eight-day rehabilitation programme, while £1,800 must be paid towards the prosecution costs at the rate of £75 a month.

As part of his dishonest deeds in Redbridge, Matthew Collins pocketed thousands from Redbridge homeowners for work, including new patios, major house refurbishment and large landscape gardening projects that were either half-finished or barely started.

Matthew Collins was known to the prosecution witnesses as Mr Cohen. He later changed his name by deed poll. Collins was charged with two offences relating to his conduct between 1 March 2017 and 1 September 2018 at Romford Police Station after Redbridge Council's Trading Standards Team had invited him for an interview following several complaints from people in Redbridge.

The first count concerns agreements he entered into for building work through his company, Crest Driveway Solutions Limited, which was dissolved in December 2017. Count two concerns the subsequent agreements he entered into as a sole trader.

Matthew Collins targeted people across the borough, including those living in South Woodford, Woodford Green, and Wanstead.

Redbridge Council Corporate Director of Communities, Steve Moore, said: "We're pleased the court has put a stop to the possibility of Mr Collins targeting more people in Redbridge and leaving them out of pocket.

"Mr Collins' should be ashamed of his unscrupulous behaviour, and he has finally got his comeuppance. Collins ripped off our hardworking neighbours who dreamed of improving their homes, only to be left with a job half-done or not even started.

"I would like to thank our Trading Standards Team, who acted swiftly on the complaints they received by building a solid and robust case against Mr Collins. The sentencing should serve as a warning to others who they think can earn money through dishonesty at the expense of others."

Listed below are examples of some of Matthew Collins' offences in Redbridge.

March 2017:

A Redbridge homeowner contacted Matt Cohen, who was advertising at the time as Crest Driveway Solutions General Building Services, about building a new patio. Mr Cohen visited the homeowner the day after and verbally quoted £1,500. 

Shortly afterwards, the homeowner received a phone call from Mr Cohen, who agreed the work would be done. On 4 April 2017, Mr Cohen returned, gave the homeowner a contract for the job, and took a £400 cash deposit to buy materials. Work was agreed to start on 18 April 2017.

Mr Cohen did not arrive on the agreed-upon date but came a few days later, stating that other work elsewhere had overrun. Further work was agreed upon, such as extending the patio by a metre and adding outside lighting. This work would be at an additional cost of £700.  

Mr Cohen asked for an additional £400 to cover the cost, which was paid in cash. Mr Cohen gave a new installation date of 26 April 2017. Again, Mr Cohen did not start work on the agreed-upon date.

Several weeks later, he arrived at the property with a labourer and left him to start the work. The labourer lifted a few of the original patio slabs and then went. Mr Cohen has not returned to the property since and did not explain why the job was not completed or the money returned.

April 2018:

Matt Cohen contacted a Redbridge homeowner who wanted significant house and garden refurbishment work. Mr Cohen had completed work for a family member and was asked to give a quote. Mr Cohen visited the property on 24 February 2018.

On 26 February, Mr Cohen was asked to provide a quote for more work on the house. This quote was £23,000, and payment was requested into the same bank account. Over the next few weeks, more work was added to the contract, and Mr Cohen asked for more money for materials. The homeowner kept making payments as requested.

On 9 March 2018, work started at the property, with a digger arriving and one worker on site to flatten some trees. On 12 March 2018, a sub-contractor with a team of people started working at the property.

On 26 March 2018, the contractor confirmed that Mr Cohen had not paid them for any more time and would, therefore, be leaving. With the work still being finished, the homeowner paid the subcontractor to keep the team working at the address. This work went on for three weeks at a cost of £8,400. By this time, the homeowner had paid Mr Cohen a total of £38,900.

On 31 March 2018, a meeting was held at which Mr Cohen stated that he had no money as there had been fraudulent activity in his bank account. At this point, the homeowner instructed him not to continue with the contract. In an email sent to the homeowner by Mr Cohen on 27 April 2018, he accounted for £11,077 spent in total on the project.

In later emails, Mr Cohen agreed to pay back a reduced amount of £18,000 at £500 monthly. No repayments have ever been made.