ROGUE traders who conned pensioners out of more than £600,000 have been jailed.
Elderly and vulnerable victims in Ellesmere Port, Chester and Wirral were tricked into handing over cash by the gang in return for non-existent or unnecessary building works at inflated prices.
Chester Crown Court was told the five-strong gang built up relationships with each victim before defrauding or stealing from them.
Neil Jones, 38, of Dibbons Hey, Spital, Wirral, and Kevin Sweeney, 37, of Lime Cottage, Parkgate, admitted three counts of conspiracy to defraud worth £534,535.
Sweeney’s wife Nicola, 38, pleaded guilty to money laundering while Paul Williams, 50, of Grasville Road, Liverpool, admitted two theft offences worth £22,590.
Mark Dodd, 50, of Booker Avenue, Liverpool, denied conspiracy to defraud £445,000 but was found guilty last month following a trial at Chester Crown Court.
Andrew Thomas, prosecuting, said all five were involved in an “overlapping series of frauds and thefts with a total value of over £600,000”.
Jones, Kevin Sweeney and Williams targeted Beatrice Price, then aged 80 and described as “frail and vulnerable”, of Hooton, between August 2009 and December 2009.
Williams stole £7,840 from Miss Price, who died last month, while Jones and Kevin Sweeney charged her £49,535 for building works later valued at about £1,300.
Mr Thomas said the defendants did not stop at emptying Mrs Price’s current account with Jones posing as a financial advisor and offering to help Mrs Price with her savings.
He said: “In fact what they were doing was transferring additional funds into her current account so they could steal even more from her.”
Dodd, Jones and Kevin Sweeney also conned Wirral-based Dr Peter Grant and his disabled sister Carol Goldstone out of £445,000 for bogus building works.
Jones and Sweeney also defrauded the siblings through the sale of the family home Lime Cottage - which was sold undervalue to Kevin and Nicola Sweeney.
Mr Thomas said £57,000 obtained from Dr Grant and his sister was paid into Nicola Sweeney’s account with some being given to Jones and the rest being used to fund the purchase of Lime Cottage.
He said: “Towards the end of summer of 2010, Mark Dodd dropped out of the picture. Jones and Sweeney continued the fraud and took it to a new level by swindling Dr Grant in respect of the sale of the cottage itself.”
Mr Thomas said it was difficult to calculate how much Dr Grant and his sister had lost through the sale of the property but it was at least £40,000.
Door-to-door salesman Williams also stole £14,750 from 83-year-old Winifred Owen, who lived alone in Chester.
Mr Thomas said the defendants approached Mrs Owen in 2010 offering to carry out building work for her.
“Although she made one payment for some minor works, Mrs Owen has the presence of mind to resist most of the offers to carry out work on her behalf,” said Mr Thomas.
Williams, who Mrs Owen “trusted” as she had dealt with him before, visited her home and said he had come to inspect the windows. Mrs Owen left him alone in her living room during the visit and went to make him a drink.
“While she wasn’t looking, Paul Williams tore a cheque from Mrs Owen’s cheque book,” said Mr Thomas.
Before leaving, Williams asked Mrs Owen to sign a piece of paper confirming he had inspected the windows and later made the cheque payable to his stepdaughter for £14,750.
“Once it had cleared, she withdrew £13,000 in cash which she gave to Mr Williams and kept the balance for herself,” said Mr Thomas.
Paul Williams, 50, of Deverill Road, Birkenhead received a total of 18 months in prison. Mark Dodd, 50, of Booker Avenue, Liverpool, five years in prison. Neil Jones, 38, of Dibbons Hey, Spital, Wirral received a total of four years in prison. Kevin Sweeney, 37, of Druids Cross Road, Liverpool received a total of four-and-a-half years in prison. Nicola Sweeney, 38, of Druids Cross Road, Liverpool received 10 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Kevin Sweeney, Dodd and Jones were also disqualified from acting as company directors for eight years.
See full story in the Chester Leader