Posted on: December 28, 2022, 11:19h. 

Last updated on: December 28, 2022, 11:42h.

He passed himself off as a skilled construction artist capable of building additions to homes and breathing new life into them. Instead, Richard Nicholls was nothing more than a con artist who ripped off clients in the UK to feed his gambling habit.

Botched repair
The remnants of what should have been a new kitchen following a botched repair by a homebuilder in the UK. The contractor used the money to fund his gambling habit, instead of on the construction. (Image: Southwark Council)

From February 2016 to December 2018, Nicholls was able to steal over £1 million (US$1.2 million). The money came from 11 clients he convinced to allow him to work on their homes, according to Hull Live. He assured them that he could do anything, from making minor improvements to major upgrades.

In reality, the 38-year-old scammer was only interested in picking up free money to gamble. Now, he’s heading to prison for his crimes.

Bricks Come Tumbling Down

Nicholls approached a number of potential clients to find work, often collecting much of the payment upfront. What he neglected to tell anyone was that he was actually a real estate agent with no experience in home repair.

However, he was a successful salesman, and this helped him perpetrate his crimes. In some cases, he began the work and never finished, while in others, his work lacked the skill even a first-year apprentice would be able to muster.

His work was so poor that one elderly client was forced to live elsewhere while the damage he caused could be repaired. That took three years.

Another client, a pregnant woman expecting her first child, succumbed to panic attacks during the pregnancy. This could have had serious implications for the fetus.

It really doesn’t feel like five years ago that Richard Nicholls came into our lives and ultimately ruined them for a substantial period of time. His lies, deceit, and total lack of moral compass left my wife and I emotionally and financially traumatized,” said victim Owen Rees.

Others used their entire life savings to fund the repairs. Nicholls apparently didn’t seem to mind, as he took the money and spent more than half of it gambling. When his clients approached him with their concerns, he made up excuses and continued as if nothing happened.

When they finally reached the end of their rope, several clients went to the police, who then confronted Nicholls. He admitted that he had no construction training, and that was the beginning of the end of his charade.

Nicholls has now had his day in court. Just before Christmas, he received a sentence that will have him spend the next three years behind bars.

A Pattern Emerges

Nicholls isn’t the first person in the UK to steal from others under the ruse of being a pro builder. He won’t be the last, either. His case is similar to one that occurred earlier this year. In that instance, the perpetrator of the scam avoided jail.

This past June, Leon Mann appeared in court after having stolen from a number of clients under the guise of being a successful roof repairman. In contrast to Nicholls, he operated a legitimate construction business, and allegedly knew what he was doing.

However, instead of completing the repairs the clients contracted him to do, he took their money and gambled with it. Mann wasn’t able to steal nearly as much as Nicholls – perhaps about 20% of the latter’s take – but it was enough to disrupt the lives of 12 families.