Three men who conned two vulnerable elderly people out of thousands of pounds were sentenced to a total of three years and nine months imprisonment today following an investigation by North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards team.
Michael Dolan, 19, and his father Edward Dolan, 48, both of 49, Allen Grove, Stokesley, were convicted of defrauding an 84 year old man from Marske by the Sea of £17,500 between June 2009 and October 2011. Both were also convicted of money laundering in relation to multiple cheques taken from the victim.
Michael Dolan and William Jacob McElvaney, 19, of Ainthorpe Lane, Ainthorpe, Whitby, were also convicted of defrauding an 89 year old single woman suffering from dementia from the Hutton Rudby area.
The trading standards investigation began in June 2012, when concerns were raised by the son of the victim in Hutton Rudby, who had installed CCTV cameras at his mother’s home after she was targeted by rogue traders.
His mother contacted him in a distressed and confused state on 16 June to say she had no money left in her purse and that men had been to carry out gardening work at her home. The following day, neighbours saw two men entering the woman’s home. The neighbours confronted the two men in the rear garden, and told them to leave immediately. Their relatives then took photographs of the men leaving the property. The CCTV images and photographs later assisted in the identification of Michael Dolan and William McElvaney.
On 23 June, the victim again phoned her son to say that someone had been to clean her gutters. An examination of CCTV images revealed the man was Michael Dolan.
On 30 June, the victim’s son noticed he had missed three phone calls from his mother. He contacted her immediately and she told him a man had been to collect money for the gutter work.
Dolan Jr and McElvaney were arrested on 12 July 2012 and searches were carried out at their home addresses.
During the course of their investigation, trading standards officers uncovered the frauds perpetrated on the victim in Marske by the Sea. The man’s son showed them multiple payments recorded in his father’s cheque book stubs to “M Dolan” and “E Dolan”. He was suspicious about this as they totalled £17,500, and while he knew the traders had been cutting his father’s grass for some time, he had no knowledge of works to the value of £17,500 having been carried out.
Trading standards investigators used estate agent’s property details, old pictures, Google Earth and Streetview images, and a surveyors report to piece together evidence, supported by a surveyor and an arboriculturalist, that no work to the value of £17,500 could have taken place.
The Dolans insisted they had carried out work to the value of £17,500 and claimed they only ever went to the victim’s property when he telephoned them and asked them to do so. But when trading standards officers obtained old itemised phone billing for the victim’s phone, it was found that he had only contacted them once during the 28 month period of their offending against him.
Michael Dolan was sentenced to a total of two years detention in a Young Offenders Institute, William McElvaney was sentenced to 9 months detention, and Edward Dolan was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.
Sentencing the trio at Teeside Crown Court today, His Honour Judge Armstrong said the men had taken advantage of elderly and vulnerable victims and that the offences were so serious, an immediate custodial sentence could be justified. He told them the public need to know that a prison sentence is inevitable for such offences.
Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for North Yorkshire Trading Standards said:
These men were prepared to target some extremely vulnerable victims to feed their own greed. I am delighted that they have been deprived of their liberty today as a direct result, yet again, of the hard work by our trading standards team.
We have demonstrated once again our determination to do all we can to secure justice for these victims and their families, despite the obstacles these cases sometimes present as a result of the vulnerability of the victims.
Speaking after the case, the son of the Hutton Rudby victim said:
My sister and I cannot comprehend how these people could take money from an old and vulnerable person with dementia, not just once but repeatedly, for work they said had been done which had not. These people must have no conscience.
They left our mother in a confused state as to why she had no money left in her purse. This has been very distressing for her and for all the family.
The son of the victim from Marske by the Sea said:
I am disgusted that unscrupulous people see fit to exploit vulnerable pensioners in this way by grossly over-charging for work that is either sub-standard or not completed at all.
I am grateful to North Yorkshire Trading Standards for taking up this case and securing a conviction and I hope that the publicity surrounding this case acts as a warning to other people to be vigilant. Even if an elderly person appears to be fully in control of their affairs, it is possible that unscrupulous individuals may have found ways to exploit them.