A FRAUDSTER that fleeced customers across the Black Country out of almost £160,000 has been jailed for two years.

Mark Ware took money for building work that was never completed and failed to pay suppliers and contractors after his construction companies went belly up.

Ware, of Newick Avenue, Sutton Coldfield, was arrested after dissatisfied customers, including some from Stourbridge and Dudley, complained to Central England Trading Standards.

The 50-year-old had previously admitted three charges of VAT fraud and two of fraudulent trading, which Martin Butterworth, defending, said was triggered by difficulties relating to work on a restaurant in January 2010.

At a previous hearing, Judge Mary Stacey was told Ware would be able to pay back his victims as the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, was contemplating giving the firm that now employed him a two million dollar contract.

The case was adjourned as Ware stood to receive a £2 million bonus if the deal went ahead but when Ware returned to Birmingham Crown Court it became apparent the contract had still not been confirmed.

Judge Stacey said: "As before, this has turned out to be a hollow promise. You were utterly reckless in what you did and showed complete indifference to your victims.

"You have shown the same behaviour towards this court and strung us along for many months with the hope and expectation of being put into funds so you could pay people back."

The judge said he "exploited" people who put their trust in him and the losses he had caused to customers, suppliers, work men and contractors totalled £157,997.20.

"Your charming demeanour masks the behaviour of a conman. I'm not saying you are a bad man but you have done bad things and made people miserable, put marriages under strain and caused ill health," the judge added.

She continued: "You had a difficult childhood and are estranged from your family. I accept not you have not personally come in to much of the money - you have also lost your house and are not living in a lap of luxury but that does not diminish the fact you defrauded individuals. You exploited the trust they placed in you to help them improve their homes."

Judge Stacey sentenced Ware to two years in prison but said he would only serve half and would be on licence for the remainder.

He was also disqualified from being the director of any company for five years.

After the hearing, Peter Mitchelson, of Hagley, who was conned out of £20,000 five years ago, said: "For the damage I know he has done to people's lives, I think the sentence should have been longer but I'm not the judge."

Speaking about his own experience, Mr Mitchelson added: "Financially, it was difficult but I made Mark Ware a promise that I would see him in court and I have done that."

David Jerrom, from Oldswinford, who was swindled out of £12,000 for work that was never completed, added: "A lot of people are very angry with the lenient sentencing of this fraudster. He has brought a lot of misery to a lot of people and shown no remorse."