A crooked builder who swindled his customers out of more than £200,000 has been ordered to repay just £1 after a financial inquiry showed he had no assets.

Samuel Harvey was based in Holsworthy but worked all around Devon through a string of landscaping and building companies which targeted people who went on social media to look for tradesmen.

He took large deposits and pre-payments for work on gardens, pathways, walls or summer houses which he failed to carry out, instead spending the cash on his gambling and cocaine habits.

Harvey, aged 32, was jailed for two years and eight months at Exeter Crown Court in March this year after he admitted five counts of fraud or unfair trading.

An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act showed he had no available assets and had been living in rented accommodation in Barnstaple at the time of his detention.

The offences which he admitted related to frauds worth £40,000 from nine customers but the inquiry showed his total benefit from crime was £214,684.11.

Harvey appeared before Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court by video link from Channings Wood Prison, near Newton Abbot, where he is serving his sentence. 

The judge declared that Harvey had led a criminal lifestyle but that he had no available assets and made a nominal order to pay just £1.

A Criminal Behaviour Order imposed by Judge Anna Richardson when she jailed Harvey in March will continue to run for ten years. It bans him from running any building, landscaping, gardening, or maintenance business. 

The sentencing hearing in March heard that took orders and asked for large deposits but then failed to carry out or finish the landscaping, gardening or building work and fobbed off angry customers with a string of excuses. 

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

Harvey carried taking on projects after he injured his arm in a car crash and knew he 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.

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

Mr Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, told the earlier hearing the offences were all committed between June 2020 and April 2022 and involved sums of between £240 and £9,065, totalling 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 been unable to complete it and became overwhelmed by his financial problems. His situation got worse when he was injured in a car crash which left him 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.

Passing the original sentence Judge Richardson told Harvey: “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.”

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.”