'Callous' bogus builders jailed for conning thousands out of vulnerable man - The Rugby Observer

'Callous' bogus builders jailed for conning thousands out of vulnerable man

Rugby Editorial 7th Dec, 2021   0

‘CALLOUS’ conmen who posed as builders to swindle thousands of pounds out of a vulnerable man by carrying out unnecessary and damaging work to the roof of his home near Warwick have been jailed.

One of the pair had already carried out a similar con on a woman who was left with a repair bill of £8,500 – on top of the money she was conned out of, Warwick Crown Court has heard.

Jimmy Connors, 21, of Park Lane, Southam, who admitted one charge of fraud, was jailed for 20 months.

His cousin Francis Ward, 19, of Oakenholt, North Wales, was jailed for 27 months after he had pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud.

Prosecutor Naomi Nelson-Cofie said that in September last year a vulnerable man in his 60s, who had suffered a brain injury, was at home in Hampton Magna near Warwick when Ward turned up.

He claimed he had been carrying out work on a nearby property and had noticed that the man’s chimney had a loose brick.

Ward offered to repair it for £10, and the man agreed – but within minutes of returning he said the chimney stack needed more work, and quoted a price of £3,000.

His victim gave the money to Ward, who came back a few days later with Connors, and they both went up onto the roof.

Ward then came down claiming the main beam had water damage and needed to be replaced at a cost of £10,500.

The man said he did not have that much, but gave him a cheque for £7,200 which Ward had asked to be made out to J Gavin, who Miss Nelson-Cofie said was his grandmother.

The next day Ward claimed even more work was necessary and asked for another £4,000 – but was told by his victim that he did not have any more money.

The following day the man was visited by a relative who saw the state of the roof – and the cheque was stopped before it could be honoured, and the police were contacted.

When Ward and Connors returned on October 5 they were arrested.

Miss Nelson-Cofie pointed out that a surveyor’s report indicated that none of the work had been necessary, and even if it had, it should not have cost more than £1,900.

But as a result, the man had lost £3,000 and had to pay a further £1,000 to put right the damage the pair had caused – and as well as affecting his self-confidence, the financial effect has meant he has had to move in with relatives.

Following Connors and Ward’s arrest, a search of their vehicle uncovered a large number of invoices relating to other work.

One of these invoices – from ‘Platinum Roofing’ – helped link Ward to a fraud in Coventry where a woman was conned out of £3,000 after he told her that her roof required work. Ward caused £8,500 worth of damage to the roof which the victim had to get repaired.

Analysis of Ward’s phone found a WhatsApp conversation discussing how to befriend and defraud people along with steps to take to avoid being detected.

Miss Nelson-Cofie said Ward had previous convictions for burglary and harassment, but Connors had no previous convictions.

Ward’s barrister asserted: “Mr Ward is deeply remorseful for his actions. He says the pressures got to him. He had the cost of a wedding and the pressures of purchasing a caravan, and things got on top of him,” she added, arguing that he could be dealt with by a suspended sentence.

Also asking for a suspended sentence, Ian Speed, for Connors, said: “He is 21, with no previous convictions. He entered into this scam willingly, knowing it was a scam. But there is a very good report on him. He was frank and did not seek to hide his culpability.”

Jailing the two, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC also ordered Ward to pay £3,000 compensation to each of the victims.

Observing that the first victim had had to move out of his home because of what they did, he told them: “Any suggestion that is not high impact is wildly misguided. Both of you did this.

“This was planned. Platinum Roofing was on the internet and there were business cards.

“I am absolutely clear this is high culpability. Only immediate custody is appropriate for this type of fraud. It is completely inappropriate to suspend the sentences.”

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