Prescot man sentenced following large-scale building cladding fraud investigation

A Prescot man has been sentenced for 15-months, suspended for two years, following a large-scale investigation into fraudulently signed building cladding safety forms.

Thomas Michael Clarke, 33, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was sentenced today (Wednesday 28 September) at Liverpool Crown Court.

Clarke was also given a 15-day rehabilitation order and 200 hours unpaid work, plus court costs of £1500.

Clarke pleaded guilty to fraudulently providing a total of 53 EWS1 forms to property management companies. EWS1 forms were introduced following the Grenfell disaster in London in 2017, so that residents could get their building’s cladding assessed for potential fire risk.

The forms require an appropriate professional to confirm the checks have been completed, but in November 2020 residents of high-rise apartment buildings reported that a total of 88 forms had been signed off by a person who was not authorised to sign them.

The reports, covering the period between 23 June and 12 November 2020, were referred to Merseyside Police by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and affected residents in locations including South Wales and London.

Without valid EWS1 forms, the residents were unable to evidence the risk to their properties, which affected their ability to get mortgages.

The correct checks have since been completed in each case and have received the appropriate authorisation.

Speaking after today’s sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Ball from the Merseyside Police Economic Interventions team said, “It is pleasing to see that Thomas Clarke has been dealt with today, and with it a message has been sent to anyone else who would consider such attempted fraud. Clarke was not qualified to make these important safety assessments, and his explanations to the companies and the police were emphatically proven to be false.

“The Grenfell Tower tragedy brought about a government and industry-wide response to fire safety, central to which was the ESW1, designed to record and assess any fire safety concerns in a consistent and universal manner. For Clarke to see this important safety work as an opportunity to fraudulently make money is disgraceful.

“The potential consequences of people and companies bypassing this process could be catastrophic, and we would encourage anyone requiring ESW1 forms to check the signatory on a form with the profession’s institution, to ensure all parties are satisfied that the properties are safe.

“Fraud investigations such as this can be complex and long-running but we were determined to ensure that Clarke was brought to justice. These companies affected have sustained a significant reputational harm and financial losses from this fraud.”

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