By Ted Davenport

A crooked gardener has been jailed for swindling £40,000 from customers from all over Devon and blowing it on drugs and gambling.

Samuel Harvey ran a series of landscaping and building companies from his home in Holsworthy which picked up projects which were advertised on social media.

He took large deposits and pre-payments from at least nine customers for work on gardens, pathways and to build walls or summer houses.

He either pocketed the money or started the work and then vanished while dodging all attempts to contact him. Some customers had to spend thousands putting right his shoddy work.

Harvey carried on offering work even though he had suffered an injured arm in a car crash and was unable to carry it out. He developed a cocaine habit and he and his partner were also losing thousands of pounds in online gambling.

His customers came from all over North Devon, Plymouth, and South Wales. Some were approached by Harvey after advertising for traders on the website, which blacked him as a result of complaints.

He was already subject to a 20-week suspended sentence from a court in Somerset for earlier trading standards offences.

Harvey, aged 32, now of Greenbank Road, Barnstaple, admitted five counts of fraud or unfair trading and was jailed for two years and eight months by Judge Anna Richardson at Exeter

She also imposed a ten-year Criminal Behaviour Order which bans him from running any building, landscaping, gardening, or maintenance business.

She told him: “You responded to requests for help with particular jobs and took payments or deposits of significant sums and did not perform the work or did not complete it or performed it to a low standard.

“I accept that you and your partner were in a spiral created by gambling debts and I take into account your difficult background.”

Mr. Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said the offences were all committed between June 2020 and April last year and involved sums of between £240 and £9,065, totaling around £40,000.

Many of the victims were left with even larger bills to fix Harvey’s shoddy work.

Mr. Michael Brown, defending, said Harvey had hoped to do the work but had been unable to complete it and became overwhelmed by his financial problems. His situation got worse when he was injured in a car crash while living in Holsworthy and was unable to work.

He and his partner both started using cocaine and gambling online, leading to large debts which ran into tens of thousands of pounds.

The prosecution followed an investigation from officers of the South West Trading Standards Service (HotSWTSS).

Steve Gardiner, legal process manager for HotSWTSS, said: “If you’re looking to have work done then Trading Standards always advise you get recommendations from friends and family, trade associations, or from the Trading Standards run Buy With Confidence approved trader scheme.”