Four rogue builders charged a 90-year-old Wellingborough man £4,500 to fix a roof tile.
Northampton Crown Court yesterday (October 30) heard how John Lee, 44, Michael Rooksby, 28, and Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, 33, all of Gipsy Lane, Irchester, and Charles Doherty, 28, of Newton Road, Rushden, swindled 28 households across the Midlands out of more than £138,000.
They targeted and used cold-calling tactics on elderly and vulnerable homeowners to “fix their roofs”, before ordering them to pay thousands of pounds for their “negligible” work.
Five of their victims died while investigations by trading standards officers were ongoing, including one elderly man from Northampton was left penniless by their schemes.
The four were sentenced to a total of more than 12 years.
His Honour Judge Roger Tregilgas-Davey said: “This involved cold-calling elderly, vulnerable people at their homes, deliberately to take advantage of them.
“Some of them had memory problems, mobility problems or Alzheimer’s. Their ages ranged from 71 to 93.
“You charged extortionate prices for work that often just made the situation worse or was never needed.
“The actual loss, if you were to tot it up, could be more than £138,000.”
The builders followed a four-step process when targeting their victims.
They would cold-call at their house and offer to fix a minor problem on the roof.
They would charge a small fee for the work – but then spot more serious problems that would need extensive repairs, often demanding thousands of pounds in cash.
But none of these problems existed. The court heard how they would then begin “tapping the well” – making repeat visits to the house to charge them more money.
The family of a 90-year-old Wellingborough man described how Charles Michael Hugh Doherty and his team of rogue builders charged him £4,500 to fix a roof tile.
The gang used their “four-step” process to target the widower and offer to fix a minor problem – before charging him 10 times what they first quoted.
Like nearly all of the gang’s swindled profits, none of the money was ever recovered.
The man’s daughter, who asked for her father to not be named, said: “They came to his house and told him one of his roof tiles was loose.
“He let them have a look and they said they wanted £450 for repair work.
“We were all concerned when he told us he had men over doing work on the roof.
“Then they came back and told him they wanted £4,500 in cash.
“He realised he had done something stupid. He had to leave them in the garden while he went to the bank.”
After the builders left, the man went to the police himself to report them.
At the gang’s sentencing, where they were jailed for a total of 12 years, his daughter said: “We’re pleased with the result, even if it just saves one other person from being exploited.”
Trading standards officers caught and convicted the four men using fingerprint evidence from flyers they handed out as well as eyewitness and home CCTV footage.
They all pleaded guilty later in court. Lee was implicated in lending the group vehicles and was jailed for three years and four months.
Charles Michael Hugh Doherty has convictions for similar schemes and helped swindle £75,000 from victims. He was sentenced to four years and 10 months.
Charles Doherty was involved with the group for about three months and was handed 27 months in prison.
Michael Rooksby is currently serving time in prison and refused to show up at court for sentencing. He has had three years and 11 months added to his sentence.