Cowboy builder took money away

Hi,
A friend of mine hired builders who were working for another friend of his but this friend of mine did not satisfy himself with the quality of work they are doing and hired them to build a porch and fit kitchen just on hearsay. He gave the builders 8000 advance and sent these builders to me to build my porch and toilet.
I also did not see what they have done at my friend's place and thinking that they are reliable and good builders gave them the advance of 3500 against a contract worth 6500.
Then these builders did not appear to be reliable and after digging the foundation of my friend's porch, they left the muck lying around with no skip to take it away.
After the builders left my friend in lurch, then he was worried as to be the genuineness of the builders. My friend visited the Builder's address in Gloucester to talk to the builders why they are delaying his project? Then, the builders brought in some blocks and material for him and that was it.
These builders have put two others known to my friend in the same situation and they have paid the builders sums of 40,000 each.
Hearing all these stories, I became suspicious of the builders and when they sent a team of three on Saturday, 6th August to dig my foundation without any skip to put the dug out material, I told the workers that I do not want a mess in front of my house and they should bring the construction material and the skip before starting the job as the advance was paid against the materials, skip, etc.
They promised to bring in material last Monday/Tuesday 15/16 August but nothing so far and they promised to finish my job within 5 weeks of 27 July.
Now, the builders have disconnected their telephone line that used to have a fax as well and there is no way we can contact them and it seems the address is of a rented house. Mobile phones are not answered. I sent them a Special Delivery Letter on 04 August, 05 demanding my money back but no reply or telephone call.
Now, the facts of the case in a nutshell are:-
The Company is a sole trader and is owned by a person who never visits the sites or signs the contracts but sends workers. The persons representing his company do not have any business cards that they are authorised to sign the contracts and these two representatives are taking money in the name of a private person who claims to be an employee of the company. The signatures of the person signing the contract are also dubious. For example, our cheque was taken in his name on 27 July and presented the very day to be cashed next day from my Abbey National Bank. I did contact this person on his mobile and asked him when would he bring the materials but he made false promises and refused to give his private address saying that he is just an employee of the company/sole trader.
To me the whole thing is a scam and I would like your advise what course of action should I take to recover my money please? How could I find the private address of this private person to sue him for the money please? I have written to the Police of Gloucester but so far I have not heard from them.
This Builder has done no work at my place but in the other cases, he just dug his teeth in to argue his case. Total money involved is around 91,500. The other three being in a deeper waters rang some solicitors in Gloucester for assistance but they claim to be already acting for this Builder.
Trading Standards Officer of Gloucester has been informed for assistance but he says, we should forget about recovering our money. The employees of the Builder who have collected the money already stress that they have not committed any crime and Police cannot touch them.
Rajinder Nijjhar
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It is hard to advise you from here because the laws stateside are so different. But there may be another way. Try contacting a local newspaper or television station to do a story on your problem, and others that have had similar problems with this builder. Then, public opinion may force the local police to do their duty and enforce the law. The public exposure will also make it difficult for the scoundrels to find more victims.-Jitney
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Thank you. We are trying to do that.
Rajinder

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Was the builder, by chance, wearing a hat, big belt buckle and chaps?

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Here in NJ, USA this type of scam is common. The crooks are knowledgable about the law. If they take money and never show up, it's very easy to get a criminal conviction. However, if they show up, start the work and then disappear, or come back in a couple months to do a little more work, then it's much harder to prove a criminal case. You're left with a civil suit, which is useless. You can sue them and there's a good chance you'll win. In fact most times they don't even show up in court, so you get a default judgement. The problem of course is collecting. These skunks are smart and have no easy to find assets in their own names.
The prosectors here have gotten tougher recently. Now they do go after guys like this that do some work then disappear. But the only ones I've seen them go after are the ones that have done it to a lot of people. If you can find enough other victims, you may have a better chance of getting the authorities to pursue a criminal case. But sady, I think the chances of recovering any money are slim. The first rule of dealing with these guys is never pay them for more work than they do. Money should be handed over in stages as the work is done or materials actually are delivered.
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Convicting them in a criminal suit could be difficult but if the completion date is well past, a civil case for breach of contract and damages incurred would be a good place to start. The crooks will probably delay until they have a bunch of cases then go bankrupt and start a new company someplace else. How much money do you want to invest in getting your money back which is a 50/50 proposition at best.
In the US there is a whole counter coulture of gypseys called the Travellers that have been notorious for this kind of scam for many years.
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Hi,
I seem to have learnt a lesson the harder way but the other three are in much deeper water.
Rajinder

it's
after
sady,
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Well, don't give up, at least you can work on making his life hell and hunting down any new accounts he might be trying to get and warning the owners. If you make enough noise, you might get your work done just lo leave him alone.
I don't know about the UK but building permits are public info here in the US, you can use it to find other victims. You should never hire a contractor without first checking his license which should be easy and any serious complaints will be found there. Checking references of Completed projects is a very good idea too.

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THANKS.
RAJINDER

to
case.
and
even
find
better
rule
they
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Ch. Rajinder Nijjhar Jatt wrote:

Cowboys are dime a dozen in the western US. Woulda been cheaper for your firend's friends'friend of a friend to just fly out and buy a cowboy, rather than to hire someone to build one.
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