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28 April 2015, 10:00
Three men who conned elderly people across Hertfordshire, Thames Valley and Surrey have been jailed.
Eight rogue trading incidents saw the victims conned out of thousands of pounds for unnecessary roof repairs, and one victim change his will.
The men would knock on the victims' doors and state that work needed to be done to their roofs, such a removing moss or repairing holes. They would offer to inspect the roof, during which time they would remove or damage tiles in order to make the victim believe there was a bigger problem. They would offer to do the work for vastly inflated prices, but as time went on they would demand more and more money, often using pressure tactics, threaten the victims and offer to take them to the bank to withdraw more money.
The victims, who were mostly aged over 70 and lived alone, handed over large sums of money to the men. In one case a man paid them over £43,000 and amended his will so that one of the offenders would receive 50% of his estate upon his death.
The complex investigation was led by Hertfordshire Constabulary's specialist investigation team, Operation Manhunt, which investigates distraction burglary, frauds and other crimes against the elderly.
The team began investigating in February 2013 after a man, aged in his late 80s in Potters Bar, called police. Since December 2012 the man was targeted by the gang who initially knocked on his door and told him they had seen a hole in his roof. They said they would repair his roof for £10,000 and the man agreed, paying £2,000 up front. No work had been carried out on his house, however the men asked for a further £5,000 for materials and was threatened to hand over more money. Later the men told the victim that his whole roof needed replacing and that they would require a further £10,000 and it was at this time that the victim contacted police. He handed over a total of £7,000. When police sought expert advice from a surveyor, they concluded that the work required would have cost under £200.
Through investigating the crime, detectives from Op Manhunt uncovered a string of other offences which had occurred in Berkhamsted, Buckinghamshire (Lower Earley, Beaconsfield, Chalfont St Peter, Chalfont St Giles), Oxfordshire (Bicester) and Surrey (Walton-on-Thames).
The three men were arrested and later charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.
Tony Williams, aged 40 and of Alan Way, George Green, Slough pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Two further men denied the offences but were found guilty at a trial in early April. They were all sentenced at St Albans Crown Court today (Monday, April 27).
Billysam Doe, aged 20 and of Foxborough Close, Slough was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. He was sentenced to seven years.
Dax Wharf, aged 24 and of Laleham Road, Shepperton was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and blackmail. He was sentenced to a total of eight years.
Williams was sentenced to five years and three months.
Upon sentencing, Judge Plumstead described the men as "determined, career criminals, who set about deliberately attacking vulnerable members of [the] community".
Detective Sergeant Jon Leak from Operation Manhunt, said: "These men purposely targeted older people. Initially they would convince them that work needed to be done to their properties, but would pressurise the victim into giving them more money.
"When the victims said they couldn't get hold of the cash they would offer to drive them to the bank and would wait outside until the victim had handed the money over. We know that some of these victims handed over the money just to get rid of the men.
"It wasn't until we started looking into Williams' finances that we saw that large cheques had been paid into his account, through which we were able to uncover further victims, some of who didn't realise they had been conned.
"I am sure the victims and their families will be pleased with this result today, as are we. However it is a sad fact that criminals like these will be operating across the country day to day and I would use this as an opportunity to advise people never to agree to work offered at your doorstep. If you believe work does need doing then seek a second opinion and obtain at least three quotes before proceeding with having the work done."