A CLEANING company boss who scammed the elderly by offering to clean their carpets for a bargain price before massively hiking up the cost has been given a 12-month suspended prison sentence.

Adam Joseph Vallier, 34, of Hannington Road, Pokesdown, Bournemouth, was also ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service.

Vallier had been found guilty of unfair trading and fraud after a five-day trial at Exeter Crown Court.

During sentencing a judge branded Vallier’s business practices ‘shabby’ and ‘insidious.’ Vallier traded under A Star Carpet Cleaning Ltd and Premier Carpet Cleaning Ltd from addresses in Dorset during 2014 and 2015.

He travelled to different counties, including Devon and West Sussex, targeting mainly elderly householders and enticing them with a ‘special offer’ to clean two carpets for £19.

Once he or his operatives got their foot in the door, the price then rose by up to £200 - a scam known as ‘bait and switch’ - the court heard.

Vallier, the ‘controlling mind’ of the businesses, was also found guilty of falsely claiming membership of the National Carpet Cleaning Association.

He wrote and published bogus customer testimonials to give the impression that he was an honest trader, and falsely claimed that his operatives were qualified when they were not.

The consumers were not adequately told of their rights to a ‘cooling off’ period during which they could cancel the contract.

This was despite Vallier receiving advice from a local authority about fair trading on at least two occasions.

The prosecution said that the ‘policy was not to bring the right to cancel to the attention of the consumer in any way.’ The work itself was not professionally done with items of furniture not moved, with his employees working around them.

Vallier traded under similar names to established business which then bore the brunt of complaints from disgruntled customers.

The prosecution said: “The barrier is the front door. The never-ending promotion of £19 gets them inside. This was a ruse to break down the barrier.”