Gardener accused of blackmailing customers and money laundering (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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Epsom gardener accused of blackmailing customers and money laundering in Sutton, Richmond and West Molesey
A gardener who allegedly blackmailed, threatened and defrauded pensioners as old as 94 has appeared in court.
Benjamin Brown, 60, of Cox Lane, in Epsom, appeared at South East Surrey Magistrates’ Court today, January 14, charged with 21 offences.
It is alleged that between November 2011 and April last year, Mr Brown committed the offences against 10 elderly and vulnerable victims, aged between 63 and 94, in Epsom, Tadworth, Sutton, Wallington, Richmond, Twickenham and West Molesey, having undertaken gardening work, minor building works and repairs at their properties.
The offences he is accused of include fraud by false representation, knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice which was unfair, dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain or cause another loss, blackmailing, threatening to destroy property, damaging property, and money laundering.
Mr Brown, who traded as Home Care Property Maintenance and Green Fingers, is alleged to have overcharged customers after little or no work was undertaken, been aggressive and provided little or no paperwork.
His alleged offences include blackmailing a woman in Lynwood Road, Epsom, for £2,000 and destroying a fence at her property.
A Surrey County Council spokeswoman said he allegedly caused financial detriment to his victims amounting to £89,950.
The balding, 6ft defendant, who has a large build, appeared before the court clean-shaven and dressed in black trousers, a blue and white striped shirt and a blue cardigan.
He spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth and to ask for clarification on when he should next appear in court.
He said: "I’ve got tinnitus, I’m a bit deaf."
The case was adjourned for a preliminary hearing at Guildford Crown Court at the end of the month.
Mr Brown is on unconditional bail.