Two men have been sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after earlier pleading guilty to defrauding elderly and vulnerable victims in North, South and West Yorkshire for roofing work and laundering the proceeds.
The men, Steven Henry Loveridge, 41, and Michael Thomas Francis, 51, both of Thistle Hill Travellers’ Site, Knaresborough, were arrested in November 2015 after an 84-year-old woman living alone in the Thirsk area reported she had been defrauded and was forced to hand over cash to the men in Thirsk Market Place – the pair had cold called her in October 2015 and claimed they had undertaken roofing work at her home.
An expert surveyor, appointed by the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team at North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards Service, which investigated the case, examined the alleged work and found it was not completed in a competent and workmanlike manner. He concluded the work was unfit for purpose and effectively worthless.
Investigations revealed the identity of further victims. These included:
- 91-year-old man from the Northallerton area who lives alone and has dementia and was defrauded of £900.
- 86-year-old woman from the Sheffield area who lives alone, has dementia and was defrauded of £2,900.
- 86-year-old man from the Selby area who has dementia and was defrauded of £750.
- 77-year-old man from the Selby area who has dementia and was defrauded of £300.
- 65-year-old man from the Selby area who lives alone, has mental health problems and was defrauded of £3,500.
The surveyor also examined work at their properties and reached similar conclusions about the quality and price.
After being charged with conspiracy to defraud and whilet on bail, Loveridge went on to target a 72- year-old woman in the Leeds area and attempted to defraud her of £2,800 in August 2016. He was charged with this and remanded in custody in November 2016.
Sentencing the men yesterday, Judge Tom Bayliss QC told them they had deliberately targeted victims who were vulnerable as a result of their age, infirmity or mental capacity and that their behaviour had caused significant harm to the victims, beyond the financial harm.
The court was told both men had previous convictions for similar offending. Michael Francis was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and Steven Loveridge to three years.
Francis was also found to have benefited from the offences by £2,660 and was ordered to pay compensation to three of the victims within 28 days. Loveridge also now faces confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to remove his assets and compensate the remaining victims in the case.
Speaking after the case, a relative of one of the victims said: Prior to this investigation I never really knew what Trading Standards did, particularly the extent of their investigations and how they protect and care for the community. From day one they explained everything in detail and eased us through the investigation, keeping us up to date and visiting us and my dad. They really looked after him, helping to safeguard him at home and suggesting other services to help him to stay at home safely.
Another victim said: I wish to praise North Yorkshire Trading Standards. The dealings I have had with them have been very good and I have been impressed by their efficiency and effectiveness.
County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: Yet again we see the actions of ruthless, heartless and determined offenders prey upon our most vulnerable residents. Their behaviour is abhorrent and we remain utterly committed to effectively tackling such offending, together with our partners, to ensure our residents are protected and offenders face the consequences of their actions.
Communities must remain vigilant to the actions of such individuals and report any suspicious behaviour to Trading Standards or the police immediately.