A CROOKED plumber who charged a client ten times the cost of refitting a boiler has been jailed after he failed to pay her compensation.

James MacMartin was initially given a suspended sentence for the £20,000 fraud but broke its terms by failing to do unpaid community work and falling behind on scheduled repayments to the victim.

He was also caught drink-driving as he left a pub to pick up a four-year-old child from school after a three-and-a-half hour, five pint lunchtime drinking session.

MacMartin’s fraud was described as mean and nasty by a judge as he activated his suspended sentence at Exeter Crown Court.

He was a plumber who was working for a distant relative who was originally quoted £3,400 to fit a new boiler. She ended up paying £35,846 and he used the money to find a gambling addiction.

MacMartin, aged 30, originally from Ide, but now of Woodbury View, Alphington, admitted drink driving and breaking a suspended sentence and was jailed for 14 months by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him: ‘The fraud was a mean and nasty offence causing substantial loss to somebody you knew quite well. You have admitted the breach of the suspended sentence and you also did so by reoffending.

‘You decided to go to a pub and consumed five to six pints over lunchtime before getting in your car with a view to picking up a child from school. That is clearly a serious matter.’

Mr Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said MacMartin missed a series of unpaid work sessions in December, April, July and this month, many without explanation and there are still 53 hours outstanding out of the 100 he was sentenced to.

He said he was arrested as he tried to pull away from a pub in Cowick Street, Exeter on the afternoon of February 17 this year and blew a reading of 67 microgrammes, the limit being 35.

Mr Wraith said: ‘He admitted having been drinking since around noon, about three-and-a-half hours, and having consumed five to six pints.

[He showed no remorse while dealing with the officer.’

He said MacMartin had failed to keep up with compensation payments and had paid only £500 instead of the required £1,000 this month.

The previous sentencing hearing was told that MacMartin told the client her boiler was leaking and replaced it twice as well as inventing other unnecessary work as a way of inflating his bills.

He did not give her any proper receipts and conned her into paying more and more money by claiming she would get it back in council grants.

His victim lost most of her savings and has had to delay her retirement because she can no longer afford to give up work.

He quoted the client £3,400 to renovate her bathroom but ended up being paid £35,846.

There was some legitimate work within this figure, so the total loss had been estimated at £20,000.

He told her he needed money to access grants and to keep up his Gas Safe registration, even though he was not actually on it.

She set up a system of paying him through internet banking in response to texted requests for cash and the fraud only came to light when her bank queried the payments and called in the police in March last year.

Miss Evie Dean, defending, said MacMartin missed some of the appointments because of a mental health crisis.

She said he is a single father with caring responsibilities who is now working for his father so he can repay the money he owes.