Asbestos removal conman ordered to pay back £82,100
A builder who hid asbestos near a school after lying to customers about his qualifications to remove it has been ordered to pay back the money he earned from dozens of jobs.
In March last year (2022), Lee Charles, 40, was convicted by Lincoln Crown Court after pleading guilty to two counts of operating a waste operation without a permit between 2017 and 2019. He also admitted to two counts of keeping or disposing of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm.
Charles was sentenced to twelve months in prison, suspended for two years.
On 22 May 2023, Lincoln Crown Court has now ordered Charles to pay back £82,100 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 following an Environment Agency (EA) investigation into the costs he avoided while working illegally.
Kent, south-east London, Surrey and Oxfordshire were among the places Charles targeted with false paperwork to win high-value contracts.
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.
Despite having no legal permit from the EA to do the work, Charles used the company name Lincs Demolition Ltd for two years claiming he was registered to remove asbestos in places including Abingdon, Caterham, Dorking, Gravesend, Luton and Sidcup.
Charles stored the waste asbestos in hired storage containers at Welbourn, in Lincolnshire, 200m from a school. The EA says he told the owners of the storage space he wanted to keep tools there and when Charles failed to pay the rent on the containers, the owners forced the locks and were confronted with the dangerous contents.
The EA says Charles then abandoned the storage containers and moved to an unpermitted waste site sixteen 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, commented: “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.”