3:00pm Thursday 5th April 2012
A GANG of fraudsters – including four Tilbury men – who fleeced two pensioners out of almost £160,000 have been jailed.
The tricksters preyed on a housebound man and woman, aged 72 and 90, for several years, charging them extortionate amounts for gardening.
One of the victims was charged more than £15,000 for work to a patio while, in the worst of the two cases, the man was conned out of £115,000 after being repeatedly targeted over a five-year period.
Basildon Crown Court heard how the first victim to be targeted was 72-year-old David Booth. Mr Booth, who lived in Leigh, was housebound and relied on carers.
Prosecuting Andrew Jackson told the court that in 2005, Mr Booth was at home when Christopher Barnes and Daniel Chuter turned up in their vans.
They told him they had carried out work on his garden – work the victim had not asked for – and they would also creosote his fence.
The pattern continued over several years, with Barnes and Chuter regularly attending the address to carry out work the victim had never asked for.
The court heard Mr Booth was asked to pay for the work by signing 41 cheques worth £67,397. In total, he handed over £115,000 to the gang for work which was either not done or substandard.
Ringleader Barnes often asked Mr Booth to leave the cheques blank. Barnes then himself made the blank cheques payable to other members of the gang, whom he paid to launder the conned cash for him.
Mr Jackson told the court that due to his immobility Mr Booth couldn’t even check the work being done and was too frightened to confront the gang.
The pensioner also said, despite his growing unease at the amount of cash he was handing over, he did not want to upset the gang.
An independent expert who examined the work at Mr Booth’s home, concluded it was shoddy.
Barnes, 35, of Jay Gardens, Chislehurst, Kent, was jailed for five years and nine months after pleading guilty to two counts of obtaining money by deception.
Chuter, 48, of Feenan Highway, Tilbury, was jailed for four years after admitting obtaining money by deception and fraud.
Allen Logan, 51 of Thackeray Avenue, Tilbury, was jailed for four-and-a-half years after admitting two counts of fraud.
William Brazil, 48 of Sullivan Road, Tilbury, was jailed for nine months after admitting obtaining money by deception.
Danny Palmer, 31, of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury, was given a four-month jail term suspended for two years and a 28-day curfew. He admitted two counts of money laundering.
Christopher Chuter, 56 of Jay Gardens in Chislehurst, Kent, was given a six-week jail term suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work. He admitted money laundering.
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