A cowboy builder who scammed elderly residents out of thousands of pounds has been jailed.
Anthony Jarrett, 41, tricked his victims into paying more than £3,000 in deposits for gardening and construction jobs that were not adequately carried out.
Jarrett targeted five residents across during a five-month period last year and pocketed large sums of money in advance payments.
However, he then failed to complete the work and made off with the money – conning one 73-year-old woman in the early stages of dementia out of £1,800.
Jarrett admitted five counts of fraud by false representation at Newcastle Crown Court earlier this year and has now been sentenced to nearly two years behind bars.
Detective Constable Sian Salter, of Northumbria Police, said: "Anthony Jarrett exploited some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities and preyed on their unassuming nature for his own selfish gain.
"On each occasion, he agreed to carry out a range of jobs for elderly residents and demanded a large up-front deposit payment to allegedly cover the cost of materials and labour.
"However, Jarrett failed to carry out the agreed work as promised and instead stole residents’ hard-earned cash. This is a despicable crime that has had a long-lasting effect on some of his victims.
"This type of exploitation will not be tolerated and I would urge anybody – especially those living alone – to be wary of this kind of criminality.
"Please be vigilant if you are approached by doorstep tradesmen and do not hand over large sums of money before work is carried out. If anybody has any concerns, or is suspicious of a worker, please contact police on 101."
The court was told that Jarrett door-stepped an elderly woman in Whitburn in July 2018 and offered to carry out work in her front and back gardens at a combined cost of £3,800.
The victim was initially asked for a £400 cash deposit for the front garden, which she paid, but grew concerned as workers failed to carry out the job as initially agreed.
A further £1,400 was then demanded as an up-front payment to cover the cost of materials before work to the back garden could begin.
After handing over a total of £1,800, the victim then struggled to contact Jarrett, who did not return to carry out the remainder of the work.
In the same month, Jarrett approached a resident in Washington and quoted £700 for some pointing work to be done on the gable end of the house.
The resident paid a deposit of £200 and agreed a start date, but nobody turned up to complete the job. Upon calling the contact number provided by Jarrett, the victim found the phone was not in use and subsequently contacted police.
Jarrett also targeted three further victims in Jarrow and Sunderland in October and November last year.
On each occasion, Jarrett agreed to complete manual jobs including building a garden wall, putting down flooring and making repairs to brickwork and demanded sums of money in advance, but failed to carry out the work.
In a victim impact statement, one resident who was exploited by Jarrett said: "I am both upset and embarrassed about what he has done to me.
"I trusted this man to do work in my house following the death of my husband. I cannot believe he has taken such a large amount of money from me without carrying out any of the work that he promised. I feel like he has taken advantage of me."
Another victim added: "I feel like I have been conned and cheated by this man. I have lost money due to this incident and no work has actually been carried out.
"It is wrong what this man has done to me and I feel disgusted by him.”
Jarrett, of Devonshire Street, Sunderland, was jailed for 20 months.