A family have been left with their home and their life in ruins after a cowboy builder used went on a £22,000 cocaine and gambling spree with their money.
Tradesman Craig Scott demolished the existing extension at Jason Lewis’ family home in Braunton but went on the run after they paid him the first instalment of his £67,000 bill.
Workmen and digger drivers turned up to start building the replacement the next week but there was no sign of Scott, who had done a runner as soon as he got his hands on the cash.
He spent £2,000 on cocaine and then blew the rest of the money in hours on an online gaming site, Exeter Crown Court was told.
The swindle has left the family with a half-built home which they cannot afford to rebuild, and their four-year-old son without his playroom.
Mr Lewis made a victim impact statement which said:”We employed Craig to demolish our existing utility room and playroom and replace it with a two storey extension.
“He had been coming to our home for six months, building a trusting relationship and he promised the best service and workmanship.
“Instead he has destroyed our happy family life and my son keeps asking why his mummy is crying all the time and asking when Craig will come back and finish his bedroom.
“It has ruined our lives and we have to cope with the shame and embarrassment, not to mention the financial loss.
“Our house has lost value which means we can no longer borrow enough money to repair the damage he has done and build the extension.”
Scott, 30, who now lives in Torquay, admitted fraud and was jailed for 16 weeks by Recorder Mr Paul Derbyshire.
He told him: ”This was by any standards a cruel and unmerciful deception, not only on the Lewis family but also the other contractors who you hired and who were left without payment.
“You took more than £22,000 of Mr Lewis’ money and spent it on cocaine and gambling over a period of a very few days. The court must have regard to the victim personal statement.
“The effects have been disastrous and I have to consider the devastating effect this has had on the family.”
Miss Caroline Bolt, prosecuting, said the Lewis family were befriended by Scott and agreed to pay him £67,585 to rebuild an extension.
He started work on June 3 this year and spent three days demolishing the old building before asking for and being paid the first instalment of £22,528.33 and promising to return on June 10 to start the new build.
Miss Bolt said:”On that day the diggers, drivers and other contractors turned up with their equipment but there was no sign of the defendant and all attempts to contact him failed and the family informed the police.
“On June 13 he walked into a police station and said they may be looking for him because he had fled with cash from a job and been on a cocaine and gambling binge.
“He said he had been paid for a job, withdrawn £8,000 cash and spent £2,000 on cocaine which he took before starting to gamble and losing all the funds in his account.
“He said he had a cocaine habit and the temptation was too great and be already owed debts to builders.”
Mr Nigel Wraith, defending, said Scott had no intention to defraud the family and had planned to finish the job but blamed problems in his personal life and cocaine abuse for his behaviour.
He said: "He had a problem with gambling and it is apparent from his bank account the money was taken out. All the withdrawals are to the same online gambling site.
“He has lost his character and lost his reputation as a good builder and he knows he has nobody to blame but himself. He has stopped using drugs and gambling as is looking for work with another builder.
“He intends to repay the money. This was just a dreadful binge by him which he very much regrets and feels sorry for what he has done.”