A LANDSCAPE gardener who repeatedly ran off with customers' deposits has been given a suspended prison sentence.

York Crown Court heard how Keith Albert Wilson spent more than £45,5000 in gambling over a seven-month period.

He cheated five customers out of nearly £12,000 with false claims that he would do the work they had engaged him to do.

Judge Simon Hickey told Wilson: "Every person is entitled to believe a builder will turn up and carry out work."

He ordered that the 41-year-old repay every penny of the money he had been given by the five customers who live in York, Thirsk and Northallerton.

Wilson, of Maple Gardens, Sowerby near Thirsk, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud by false representation.

He was given a nine-month prison sentence which was suspended for 18 months on condition he commits no further crimes, does 150 hours' unpaid work and 25 days' rehabilitative activities.

The court heard that Wilson advertised on Facebook as KAW Landscapes.

When customers contacted him, he asked them for money to pay for materials or as an advance payment and undertook to do landscaping work which was never completed.

North Yorkshire Council Council said after the case that he asked for between £814 and £5,197 from each customer and that together the amounts he took under false pretences totalled £11,758.

The council said Wilson admitted to having a gambling problems and that he had said he had intended to complete the work when he took the money.

He had accepted that he had not been honest with the consumers when they asked for money to be returned when work was not completed.

Suspending the prison sentence, the judge told Wilson: “I’m not going to send you to custody today. It’s not appropriate. You’re not a risk to the public and you are capable of working and repaying the community.”

He ordered Wilson to repay the money at a rate of £400 a month.

North Yorkshire County Council trading standards, who prosecuted Wilson, started investigating his activities after they received complaints about him.

Wilson initially elected trial by jury when he faced five charges of unfair trading as well as the fraud charges.

The county council did not pursue the unfair trading charges, which he denied, after he pleaded guilty to the fraud charges.

The council's assistant director for growth, planning and trading standards, Matt O'Neill, said: “Consumers place a great deal of trust in tradespeople when they hand over their hard-earned cash as a deposit for work or building supplies.

"It is unacceptable that some traders then treat that money as their own without completing work or supplying materials.

“We are pleased that the court has recognised the impact that such offending has on the affected consumers in the sentence passed today.”