A cowboy builder who fleeced elderly, infirm and vulnerable pensioners by promising to do bogus work that he never completed has been jailed.
Alan Fitzgerald, 47, was branded a “truly despicable” conman before being jailed for six years for a string of cons committed over a two-year period across Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Fitzgerald, of Stanwick, conned his 39 victims of a total of £300,000 by promising to do building work he never completed or by grossly overcharging them.
On other occasions he targeted elderly victims, preyed on the infirm and intimidated pensioners by warning that their homes urgently required repair work.
He falsely told a 94-year-old victim that she had asbestos in her guttering and tricked her into fearing she could be prosecuted.
Fitzgerald, who was described as “misleading, aggressive and dishonest”, conned her for £6,000.
Northampton Crown Court heard how he would drive his victims to cashpoints and watch as they withdrew the money.
However, another of those conned by Fitzgerald, Stella Foster, 73, of Higham Ferrers, described him as “plausible”.
She and her husband gave him £15,000 for work worth £600. Mrs Foster said: “He was so plausible, and came over as a fair, genuine man.”
In November 2012, Fitzgerald promised to build a conservatory and put in a new back door for the Fosters and told them if they waited until the end of the week to pay him it would cost more.
He also replaced their fascias and garage roof but did a “dreadful job”.
Mrs Foster said: “In the meantime I said ‘what about the conservatory and the back door that we’ve paid for?’ but it was never forthcoming.
“When I heard that he was bankrupt I thought, ‘hello, we’re not going to get our money back’.
“We are still in the same boat as we were before, and £14,000 out of pocket.”
Many of his victims had their life savings stolen.
The court heard that once he identified a vulnerable victim he would “tap the well” and return to fleece them of more cash.
A victim in Northampton paid £29,780 for work that had a true value of no more than £9,600.
Fitzgerald committed the frauds while operating two companies. They were Fitz Multi Trade Builders between November 2011 and January 2012, and then A J Builders, between October 2012 and October last year.
He also operated A6 Plastics, A2 Builders and Stanwick Fascias.
It also emerged that Northamptonshire County Council trading standards have received complaints about him dating back to 2005.
There are a further 46 complaints not included in the formal charges. The court heard how brazen Fitzgerald even continued to rip-off customers after his first appearance in court last year.
Fitzgerald has no formal building qualifications, ignored warnings from trading standards officials and has never filed a tax return for either company.
He pleaded guilty to two offences of fraud on Tuesday and was convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading.
He was sentenced to a total of six years in prison and was disqualified from being a director of any company for 10 years.