A man from South Tyneside has been jailed for over three years for his role in a rogue roofing gang who targeted the elderly.
Andrew Hardy, 32, of no fixed abode but formerly of Tyne Dock, South Tyneside and Houghton was jailed for three years and three months for his part in a scam which conned vulnerable householders out of tens of thousands of pounds for needless and shoddy repairs .
Teesside Crown Court heard how the gang of eight defrauded elderly and vulnerable victims from across the North East and North Yorkshire for substandard and unnecessary roofing works undertaken at their homes.
The court heard an expert surveyor who examined one 87-year-old man’s roof in Richmond, North Yorkshire, on behalf of trading standards valued the work to the property at just £600, including £400 for scaffold hire but he had been asked to transfer a total of £17,000 to two bank accounts.
A concerned member of the public, who was in the bank on the final occasion, overheard what the elderly man was telling the cashier and rang the police.
As a result, extensive enquiries were made and two further elderly and vulnerable victims were found - a 75-year-old man from Thornaby, who paid £18,500 for works to his roof in December 2016, and a 73-year-old man from Pocklington, who paid £10,700 for roofing works at his property in November and December 2016.
Additional victims were also identified in York and Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, including a 77-year-old man, who paid £9,500 for works to his roof in July 2016, with attempts to defraud him of a further £9,500, and a 91-year-old man where attempts to defraud him for works to his roof in December 2016 were prevented by neighbours.
Andrew Hardy pleaded guilty to six counts of money laundering.
In all, the eight men sentenced at Teesside Crown Court by His Honour Judge Morris will serve 18 years.
Judge Morris described the offences as “disgraceful” and said: “This was a well-planned, well-organised fraud that set out to fleece elderly people of their savings. I’ve seen the victims and the impact it has had upon them.
"They are people in the late evenings of their lives, who are easily confused. It is quite clear there was deliberate targeting of them because they were very vulnerability, frail, fearful, forgetful, and over-trusting."
The gang were caught through Operation Gauntlet - a multi-agency safeguarding team hosted at North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards
The judge also commended officers from the team.
He said: “The investigation was a thorough and professional investigation. I commend the officers for bringing to book this gang. Public expenditure has been saved because it was so well investigated and presented. It left them nowhere to go. They deserve the thanks of the court and they have my personal thanks.”
Speaking after the case, Councillor Andrew Lee, executive member for growth, planning and trading standards in North Yorkshire, said: “This case is another disgraceful example of the lengths organised crime groups will go to when deliberately and repeatedly targeting the most vulnerable members of our communities.
"Elderly people who have worked hard all their lives are entitled to a safe, peaceful and comfortable life in their retirement. No-one has the right to defraud them of their life savings and make them feel unsafe in their own homes. That has been rightly reflected in the sentences handed out.
“In North Yorkshire, our multi-agency partnership approach leads the way nationally in tackling doorstep crime head on and we will not relent. This has been the most complex investigation we have ever undertaken, but we were determined to get justice for these victims and I would like to thank North Yorkshire Police for their support in this investigation. We will now pursue the offenders under the Proceeds of Crime Act to compensate the victims.
“I would also remind everyone not to deal with doorstep callers. Please report any incidents or concerns to us or the police immediately. We can and we will act on any information received."