Master Locksmith Association helps Westminster City Council and trading standards win a landmark case against one of the UK’s most notorious rogue traders Mark Makowski.
Mr Makowski, who has previously been investigated by BBC's Rogue Traders, was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud at the Old Bailey on July 22. In what was the biggest case brought against a locksmith, the jury ruled that he was responsible for installing inferior products, charging a premium rate to unsuspecting customers and operating under a number of company names.
Mr Makwoski was found guilty of defrauding 13 customers, including two incidents involving trading standards officers. Appearing to help stranded customers, he was in fact found guilty of causing unnecessary damage by drilling out locks and fitting cheap replacement locks.
One victim from London was quoted £128 to open her door after becoming locked out but needed up receiving a bill for £462 for just 45 minutes work in April 2007. Another was charged £1,160 for fitting two locks, which had to be replaced a few days later at a cost of just £154.
Westminster Trading Standards presented three years worth of evidence throughout the five-week trial to bring the case to court. Mr Makowski, who operated under 25 different company names over the period of the investigation, has been refused bail and remanded in custody. He is due to be sentenced on August 31. Judge Anthony Morris told the court that a prison sentence was inevitable.
With one of its members acting as an expert witness for Westminster City Council and trading standards in this case, the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) is warning customers of the potential dangers of hiring unregulated locksmiths.
The MLA's Dr Steffan George said: "We are delighted that the jury found Makowski guilty of all accounts of fraud and are pleased that the hard work Trading Standards, Westminster Council and our members have put into this case has been rewarded. Rogue traders, although rare, give our industry a bad reputation. Thankfully there are only a handful of them out there and this case is a perfect example of how we won't let them get away with ripping the public off."
He added: "All MLA Approved Companies have to undergo strict vetting procedures, including CRB checks, regular inspections and employ a qualified locksmith."
Head of Trading Standards Sue Jones commented: "We are delighted that justice has finally caught up with this trader, who charged his customers large sums of money for very poor quality and often totally unnecessary work. We hope the fact that his activity was proved to be fraudulent sends out a clear message to other traders who may be tempted to behave in this way."