A Leamington-based interior design company ripped off customers to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds in deposits for unfinished work before going into liquidation.
But as soon as Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd, which had its ‘flagship shop’ in Regent Grove, Leamington, collapsed, it sprang back as Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd.
Both customers of the business, run by Jane Jobson and her undischarged bankrupt partner Terence Naylor, and suppliers then continued to be fleeced, a jury has heard.
Naylor, 55, of Naylor Crescent, Nantwich, Cheshire, had pleaded guilty to two charges of taking part in the management of a company while an undischarged bankrupt.
Jobson, 54, of Browns Lane, Coventry, pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting those offences – and both denied further charges of fraudulent trading by carrying on the two businesses with intent to defraud creditors.
But at the last moment Naylor changed his pleas on those two charges to guilty, and the trial at Warwick Crown Court began with just Jobson in the dock.
Prosecutor Simon Davis told the jury: “This case has an element of fraud about it – but it’s all about people, really, and whether they were dishonest.
“The case is all about two limited companies, Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd and Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd.
“The prosecution case is that Miss Jobson and Mr Naylor were trading fraudulently with the intention of defrauding their customers. They offered interior design and building work, and took large deposits off their customers.
“Once you hand the money over for goods, you’re expecting back whatever they might be. You anticipate those goods are going to be ordered by the person to whom you have given the deposit.
“You will have to consider whether the goods in this case were ever ordered and whether they were received.
“On occasions deposits were over £10,000, so we are talking big money, and on occasions the customer got absolutely nothing or, on occasion, something, but not what they ordered.
“The time frame is 2010 to 2014. I suggest you will see a picture emerging over that time.
“You will have to decide how Miss Jobson and Mr Naylor interacted with their customers. We say they were dishonest.
“Jobson and Naylor were in business together. But who was the director? Who was in charge? Who was on the bank books?”
On the issue of whether she was aware of what was going on, Mr Davis said that although Jobson was the sole director of the two companies, they were seen as joint owners, and were not just in a business relationship, but were partners at the time.
He said there was a good reason why Naylor was not on any company documents – because, as an undischarged bankrupt he was barred from taking part in the management of a business.
And Mr Davis suggested Jobson was aware of that, and of what was happening with the business.
He pointed out that Jane Jobson (Interior Design) Ltd was incorporated in January 2011 and went into liquidation in March the following year, owing nearly £100,000.
Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd, operating from the same Regent Grove address, was incorporated in February 2012 and was wound up in January 2014, owing in the region of £400,000.
Mr Davis said that in 2011 a ten-year lease was signed for the premises in Regent Grove, with an annual rent of £19,500 – but within a year arears were already starting to mount.
By December 2012 the landlords were owed £25,000 and by July 2013 that had risen to £32,000.
The shop had been fitted to a high standard to provide comfort for customers and ‘an air of respectability’ – but as well as the rent, invoices from suppliers, including the Polished Floor Company in nearby Regent Street, went unpaid.
There were also many ‘disgruntled customers’ including a Mr Hirtenjohann and his wife who were looking to replace their bathroom in 2011, and wanted it completed by Christmas that year.
They were given a quote by Naylor and Jobson of £10,194 and were asked for a £4,000 deposit, which they paid.
‘Nothing happened,’ but by the end of January 2012 work finally started, leaving them without a working bathroom.
But work stopped after they were told the bath they had chosen was not compatible with the space – and after more delays they were told everything was ‘in the warehouse’ awaiting fitting.
Nothing happened apart from them being asked for more money, which they paid and said they wanted the fittings delivered – but that did not happen, and they were left with nothing to show apart from an out-of-commission bathroom.
It was at that time that Naylor was in the county court ‘fending off a creditor’s claim,’ before the company went into liquidation and re-emerged as Jane Jobson (Contracts) Ltd.
But nothing improved, and a succession of customers paid deposits and further payments totalling amounts ranging from £10,000 to as much as £27,000 in one case and £58,000 in another for work including kitchens, bathrooms and extensions which were never completed.
One couple, Mr and Mrs Chung, paid a £15,000 deposit for an extension, ‘but then there was silence.’
Eventually they told Jobson they were concerned about the project, and that they did not want their money back, but did want the actual kitchen supplied, which they would fit themselves.
Jobson agreed to that and said she would go to the house to design the kitchen – but failed to show.
Mr Davis told the jury: “Both defendants were equal trading partners in the company, and both knew what the other was doing.
They were taking large deposits and there were subsequent failures to order goods or do work.”
The trial continues.