Chimney Sweeps Who Planted Dead Pigeons In Houses Avoid Jail | United Kingdom | New

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Father and son chimney sweeps who planted dead pigeons in houses so they could overload their work avoided prison.

Martin and Luke Price charged elderly couple over £5,000 for sweeping, cleaning bird’s nests and replacing parts – but the nests weren’t real and the chimney wasn’t swept.

The court heard that the prices would become aggressive and rude when customers asked for a fee.

At one point, Luke Price called a woman a “bitch” in her own home.

A BBC Rogue Traders sting revealed that Martin, 59, and Luke, 33, pocketed more than £13,000 by bringing the dead birds to customers and planting them or showing them to customers so that they could say that work was needed.

In March 2019, Martin Price was filmed planting a dead pigeon in the chimney of an Airbnb in Windsor as his son Luke watched.

The pair were then seen on hidden cameras telling an elderly actress hired by the BBC that she had to pay £749 to sweep a chimney, remove the nests and install several cowls so the birds couldn’t get in.

Another job was put together by the program, in which the awards went up against presenter Matt Allwright.

Asked about their practice of placing dead birds in chimneys, Luke Price told the presenter that he was an animal lover and installed the cowls to prevent wildlife from getting stuck in the chimney flues, said said the court.

He was later questioned by Trading Standards and admitted to the scam, saying he ‘gave in to temptation when the work was soft’ and overcharged clients.

Isleworth Crown Court heard the couple worked under the names of several different companies, all with Luke Price as director, including Complete Chimney Care, Premier Chimney Care Limited and London Chimney Company.

Both Luke and Martin admitted to conspiring to defraud eight people between September 2017 and April 2019.

Luke Price received a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and Martin Price received an eight-month prison sentence, also suspended for 18 months.

The court heard the most vulnerable victims were a pensioner called Norman Grossman and his wife, who originally booked for a sweep in October 2018.

When Luke Price arrived he told Mr. Grossman that several of the chimney pots needed fixing and showed the few pictures of a dead bird and a bird’s nest which they claimed were from their chimney.

Price and another worker then spent four to five hours on the roof, after which Price took Mr Grossman into his van and told him to give his credit card details to a lady on the phone to pay £5,790 .

Prosecuting Richard Heller said: “Mr Grossman explained in an email to the company the effect their conduct had on him and his wife, particularly as the amount he paid had made “a dent in our availability of funding for care”.

Another serious incident has been said to involve a woman called Charlotte Smith-Oates who was quoted £48 for a chimney sweep in November 2018.

The court heard Luke Price told him a chimney was blocked by a bird’s nest and, after climbing to the roof, told him to go upstairs and showed him a bucket of birds dead.

He claimed he removed two nests and she needed to have five cowlings fitted to prevent it happening again – ultimately handing her a bill for £1,892, including £1,625 for the cowlings.

Mr Heller said: “Initially Luke Price said he would reduce the cost to £1,300 but Ms Smith-Oates asked for the covers to be removed as she could not afford to pay the amount requested.

“At this, Luke Price became abusive and aggressive, calling her ‘ab*tch’ and saying ‘people like her don’t like to pay peasants like him’.”

Ms Smith-Oates felt unsafe and the couple had a standoff for around 30 minutes during which Price refused to leave, the court heard.

She paid Price £400 as she became ‘distraught and in tears’.

Ms Smith-Oates called another company to sweep the chimney and was told the wrong cowls may have been used by Price.

She also received an email from Price asking for the remaining £1,500 balance.
Recorder Alun Jones KC said the offense was ‘mean, dishonest and unpleasant’ and the couple conducted themselves ‘shamefully’.

Luke Price, from Ashford, Surrey, was also ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and banned from being a company director for seven years.

A proceeds of crime hearing to determine the amount of compensation he will pay victims will be held on a date to be determined.

Martin Price, of Addlestone, Surrey, was also ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £5,000 prosecution costs to the London Borough of Hammersmith.

No explanation of where the dead birds came from has ever been provided by the couple.

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