WHEN physiotherapist Lisa Brown hired Ziggy Sobolewski for a simple building project, little did she know it would be the start of a two-year nightmare.
Her refusal to pay him the final £7,000 for his substandard work resulted in a bizarre campaign of intimidation that even saw her arrested over false claims that she hired a Kosovan hitman to kill a local councillor.
Ms Brown had hired Mr Sobolewski in February 2010 to refurbish a former driving school in South Street, Gosport, to convert it into a private rehabilitation clinic.
But when she became unhappy with the work, Mr Sobolewski launched his campaign of harassment, which included going into the clinic in April 2010 to strip out many of the fixtures and fittings.
In May 2010, police arrested Ms Brown at her Hill Head home on suspicion of hiring an assassin to kill Sean Woodward, the leader of Fareham Borough Council and her former business partner.
Mr Woodward told police he had received the information from Mr Sobolewski. She was later released without charge.
Ms Brown also told a hearing at Portsmouth County Court that Mr Sobolewski would often appear outside her home and workplace or call her repeatedly on her mobile phone demanding the money, as well as contacting business associates with ‘malicious rumours’ about her.
She added that Mr Sobolewski had told her he was ‘in with the Russian Mafia’ and could make people ‘disappear’.
Ms Brown said: ‘He’s a rogue trader. Dealing with Ziggy Sobolewski has been a complete nightmare which at one point we never thought would end.
‘He has totally and utterly devastated me in my professional and private life.’
Ms Brown has now won £150,000 from Mr Sobolewski after a judgment made at Portsmouth County Court.
Recorder David Blunt ordered him to pay Ms Brown £28,226.47 in damages, £13,000 for the harassment and her lost earnings, and £110,000 in costs.
Independent building inspector Martin Reynolds examined the property in May 2010 and identified 139 items which were defective or outstanding from the original specifications. He described the work as ‘of a low DIY standard’.
A story in The News about the row between Ms Brown and Mr Sobolewski in May 2010 was used in the case as evidence.
Ms Brown said: ‘This judgment is a complete vindication of the position that I took and my message to anyone else going through something like this is to stand up to people like him – don’t let them bully and intimidate you.’
When contacted by The News Mr Sobolewski said he had ‘suffered’ because of the court case but responded to any questions by only saying: ‘It’s outrageous.’
HELP IS AT HAND
AS PART of Lisa Brown’s case against Ziggy Sobolewski, she contacted trading standards.
Ms Brown fell victim to the rogue trader, even though he had been recommended to her by a client.
Trading standards can offer advice to customers who have fallen foul of similar rogues. It also investigates safety and standards as well as fair trading practices.
Websites have also been set up which can help customers identify reputable tradesmen and feature reviews from clients.
For more information about Hampshire’s trading standards department, contact 08454 040506 or go to hants.gov.uk/ tradingstandards.htm