Jail for 'predatory' tradesmen

Five tradesmen who conned the elderly and vulnerable out of more than £700,000 have been jailed.

One victim paid £18,000 for a job that should have cost £500 and another, who was disabled, signed over his home to finance roof repairs.

Joseph Henry Lee, 34, Andrew Hodson, 29, Joseph Bellman Jonathan Lee, 25, James William Forrest, 49, and Owen Sexton, 39, were jailed on Monday.

Judge Nicolas Coleman, at Cambridge Crown Court called them "predatory".

The gang had conned more than 100 people across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire and east Cheshire.

Malcolm Taylor, from Cambridgeshire Trading Standards, said: "They targeted the old and the vulnerable and the impact it had on many of them has been quite significant.

"The crimes were quite invidious. People forget that as you get older you tend to lose confidence in the way you can control your own life. Incidents like this really can undermine people's confidence and affect their health."

He said he hoped the "heavy" sentences would "stop other people thinking about going into this kind of activity".

Financial investigators are seeking compensation for the victims from the proceeds of the crimes.

'Completely unacceptable'

Joseph Henry Lee, of Grange Park, Fen Road, Cambridge was sentenced to seven years for conspiracy to defraud.

Forrest, of Overbrook Nursery, Landbeach, Cambridgeshire, received five-and-a-half years for conspiracy to defraud.

Sexton, of Fletcher Road, Rushden, Northamptonshire was sentenced to seven months for money laundering.

Hodson, of Minerva Way, Cambridge was jailed for 27 months for money laundering.

Joseph Bellman Jonathan Lee, of Overbrook Nursery, Landbeach, Cambridgeshire received 27 months for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

Sentencing of a sixth defendant, John Steel, 47, of Main Street, Dreghorn, Ayrshire was adjourned until a later date.

Mr Taylor said: "This was a very complicated crime that took two years' of investigation carried out with a small team from Cambridgeshire Police.

Det Ch Insp Jim McCrorie said: "Those involved in these offences deliberately preyed on the elderly and vulnerable which is completely unacceptable. We will continue to use all the tactics available to us to ensure offenders like these are targeted and brought to justice."

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