A Scarborough man who was part of a gang who conned a 74-year-old woman out of her £17,000 life savings has been jailed for 15 months.
At York Crown Court today, Christopher Paul Long, 34, of Royal Avenue, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud against the Scarborough woman for roofing work at her property in December 2015 and January last year.
Long, along with other men, told the victim they needed to replace her roof and could do the work for £15,000. She negotiated with them and the price was reduced to £12,000. The men told her they needed £7,000 in cash up front to pay for materials, scaffolding and skip hire, which she gave to them.
When the men returned after the Christmas period they told her they had found a rotten beam and a further £5,000 in cash was needed to replace the rafters. They then told her the materials had been bought and were in storage but specialist equipment had to be hired and a £5,000 deposit was required. She was asked to transfer this money to a Luton man and was given his bank account number to make the transfer.
The men then told the woman they would do the work on 11 January but never returned. She lost a total of £17,000.
A surveyor appointed by North Yorkshire Trading Standards concluded that the whole roof could have been replaced for £7,500 and that the victim had been excessively overcharged. He also found there was no evidence of any structural issues or deficiencies with the timbers of the roof and a full re-roofing was not, in fact, required.
The case was brought after an investigation by the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team, Operation Gauntlet, based at North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards. The team consists of trading standards officers, police officers and a safeguarding officer from Health and Adult Services and tackles all forms of fraud against vulnerable adults.
It represents the 23rd conviction in the last 12 months for such offenders and brings the total sentences handed down to 33 years and five months imprisonment. Long was also given a 12-month custodial sentence at York Crown Court in March for similar offences after an investigation by North Yorkshire Police.
The Luton man who received the bank transfer from the victim is currently listed as wanted for money laundering offences.
Sentencing Long, Judge Andrew Stubbs said: “You and other criminals targeted the victim and decided to take as much money as you could by pretending you would do work to her house.
“The effects on the victim were substantial. You took her future from her. Your robbed her of her confidence, her security and her financial well-being. All to make easy money. The offending was so serious that only a custodial sentence is justified. It can only be adequately punished by an immediate prison sentence.”
Speaking after the case, Councillor Andrew Lee, North Yorkshire County Council Executive Member for Growth, Planning and Trading Standards, said: “Yet again we see unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities and defrauding them of their life savings. We remain committed to working with our partners to ensure they are brought to justice and our communities are protected.”
The victim in the case said: “Apart from the feeling so naïve for being taken in by these men, the loss of the money is obviously the most important thing. I have no ‘spare’ money left for emergencies now and I can’t hire help in the house and garden for the jobs which are too heavy or difficult for me.
“I can’t think of any sort of holiday, however small, until I can save up or get some money back in this case. Having never been in this situation before, I find it very upsetting.”