Chatteris man has a string of unhappy customers, including a disabled couple who paid him thousands for a campervan and another with an unsafe bathroom
PUBLISHED: 15:22 22 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 22 February 2017
Les Crofts, the Chatteris man behind the doomed Jumbos Jungle children’s play centre, is revealed today as being responsible for a series of failed enterprises that left his customers out of pocket.
They include a disabled couple who paid him more than £9,000 for a campervan conversion that now sits as an empty shell in his industrial unit in Honeysome Road.
Nikki Mason wanted the van to sleep in when she and her husband visited her sick mother who is dying of leukaemia.
She said: “We found his details online; Les knows the reason for us needing a van. It is not for camping trips, it is a practical investment so we can sleep in it when we go to visit my mum.
“This is most of our savings. We called the office number, called his mobile and sent texts. At first he would reply saying the work is being done but now he ignores our calls.”
The campervan has only had some insulation installed, some wiring and a small fridge sits ready to be fitted.
The incident was typical of many told by dissatisfied customers who contacted us after we first revealed his failed Jumbo Jungles enterprises.
Crofts is no stranger to commercial life – we found companies in which he was involved ranging from accepting building and electrical work to running an on-line trading company.
One customer told of a bathroom conversion he attempted. After ripping the old bathroom out and replacing it, he took the money - £2,100- and left. She was later to find the tiling was wonky, his plumbing caused the downstairs to flood and the electrical work he carried was deemed unsafe.
She said: “When he finished it looked like a five year old had done it.
“Tiles were wonky, some bulged out, I could cut myself on one side as there’s no edging.
“The electrics are not safe, there’s no RCD breaker. It’s going to cost £4,500 to undo the mess.”
Since revealing the Jumbos Jungle fiasco, which was supposed to open this month, we received numerous calls from readers.-
One said: “There are plenty of people that are disgruntled.”
Another said: “Les Crofts took £1,000 under false pretences from me in December 2015 and failed upon arrival to provide merchantable goods to the design agreed via his Ebay business pseudonym “Top-notch-leisure”, one of his many business ventures.”
Crofts has a Just Giving Page in a bid to attract shareholders to an, as yet, non existent indoor children’s play centre which he advertised at £200 each for VIP membership - he has pledged to pay back all of these.
When we visited his industrial unit on Monday, we were met by a man who said he was ‘Mike Smith’; only later did we realise we had, in fact, been speaking with Crofts himself.
Previously Crofts had told us he could not finish the Renault panel van conversion for October 2016 because he had a bad back and then had a nervous breakdown last month. He also insisted he was still off work through ill health.
However he told another person he had recently been on holiday in Albania.
One person contacted us and said: “He said he had gone to Albania to look at play equipment for Jumbo’s Jungle but that might have been a lie.
“He manages to start up so many businesses by getting a new girlfriend/fiancé/wife for each one and puts their name on the business to get around his poor credit problem.”
Crofts said he was going to open a half a million pound children’s play centre called Jumbo’s Jungle in Chatteris this month but blamed his failure on being unable to find the right property for it.
He claimed that once landlords knew he wanted a change of use they did not want to know anymore.
Crofts now says he has found a new unit and is working on it.
He said the Just Giving page had been set up by somebody else and he had nothing to do with that side of things.
He said: “The campervan is in the workshop, the work is being done. I’m not doing it because I’m off sick which is why I didn’t reply to them because I’ve been at home.
“I’ve been off sick for ages and ages. I’m not at work because of all the hassle; it’s got on top of me.”
During our visit Mr ‘Smith; said he didn’t want to let the Cambs Times in to the workshop for health and safety reasons as we did not have steel toe cap boots.
He told us the disabled couple with the campervan had slowed things down because they couldn’t decide if they wanted a cooker with a grill or not.
• Trading Standards has been contacted for a comment.
• Have you been affected by Crofts? Contact the newsdesk firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01354-661915.