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Asbestos conman ordered to pay back thousands

Man’s 40 destinations of deception read like an A-Z, including several locations in the South East.

A builder who hid asbestos near a school after lying to customers about his qualifications to remove it is to hand over money he earned from dozens of jobs.

Kent, south-east London, Surrey and Oxfordshire were among the places Lee Charles targeted with false paperwork to win high-value contracts.

The Lincolnshire man was last year given 12 months in prison, suspended for 2 years. Now, a court has decided 40-year-old Charles must pay up £82,100 in a proceeds of crime order.

He used the company name Lincs Demolition Ltd for 2 years, claiming he was registered to remove asbestos in places including Abingdon, Caterham, Dorking, Gravesend, Luton and Sidcup. But Charles had no legal permit from the Environment Agency to do the work.

He zig-zagged England to act out his crimes:

Abingdon, Barton-upon-Humber, Boston, Burntwood, Cambridge, Caterham, Doncaster, Dorking, Erdington, Birmingham; Grantham, Gravesend, Great Yarmouth, Huntingdon, Ipswich, Kettering, Kings Lynn, Leicester, Lincoln, Loughborough, Luton, Mansfield, Market Rasen, Melton Mowbray…

… Newark, Norwich, Nottingham, Oakham, Peterborough, Scunthorpe, Sidcup, London; Sleaford, Spalding, St Ives, Cambridgeshire; Stockport, Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester; Stourbridge, Walsall, Warsop, Wellingborough and Worksop.

Having duped customers, Charles stashed the waste asbestos in hired storage containers at Welbourn, in Lincolnshire, 200m from a school and close to a Girl Guide centre.

Charles told the owners of the storage space he wanted to keep tools there. When he failed to pay the rent on the containers, the owners forced the locks and were confronted with the dangerous contents.

Asbestos is a hazardous substance when disturbed and carcinogenic. The UK banned its use in 1999.

Once exposed, Charles abandoned the storage containers, moving to an unpermitted waste site 16 miles away near Sleaford, where he continued to store asbestos unsafely, posing a risk to public health.

Paul Salter, an environmental waste crime officer for the Environment Agency, said:

“Lee Charles’ crimes were not just illegal, but dangerous. He has been ordered to pay back money, and this sends out a clear message to others who flout the law that waste crime doesn’t pay.

“Not only do we use environmental law to prosecute offenders, but use proceeds of crime orders to ensure that criminals are deprived of the benefits of their illegal activity.

“The Environment Agency supports legitimate business by disrupting and stopping the criminal element, backed up by the threat of tough enforcement, as in this case.

“We continue to use intelligence-led approaches to target the most serious crimes and evaluate which interventions are most effective.

“If you see or suspect waste crime is being committed, we urge you to report it immediately to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

In 2015, illegal waste activity was estimated to cost more than £600 million in England alone, with the figure for the UK likely to be much higher.

The Environment Agency’s permitting system enables businesses to carry out their operations, while robust regulation is in place to prevent them being undercut by irresponsible or illegal operators.

In March last year, Charles, of Caldicot Gardens, in Grantham, was convicted by Lincoln crown court after pleading guilty to 2 counts of operating a waste operation without a permit between 2017 and 2019, contrary to regulations 12, 38(1)(a) and 41(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

He also admitted 2 counts of keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm, contrary to sections 33(1)(c), 33(6) and 157(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

On 22 May, Lincoln crown court ordered Charles to pay £82,100 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 following an Environment Agency investigation into the costs he avoided while working illegally.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/asbestos-conman-ordered-to-pay-back-thousands

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