Clacton and Colchester pensioners conned out of £1m

Chelmsford Crown Court The group, appearing at Chelmsford Crown Court, over-charged at least 18 victims between 2009 and 2013 for shoddy building work

Elderly men and women in Essex have been conned out of more than £1m by a gang of rogue traders, a court has heard.

The group over-charged at least 18 victims between 2009 and 2013 for shoddy building work, in the Clacton and Colchester area in Essex.

Many targeted lived alone or had dementia, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Judge John Dodds told the court: "Once they got their claws into their victims, they would not let go."

Lost £123,000

Police said there are likely to have been many more victims who were never identified.

Among the victims was 87-year-old Grace Gibbs, known as Gladys, who was widowed and suffered from bladder cancer.

She lost at least £123,000 as a result of unnecessary and often duplicated work on her home in Clacton, Mr Shaw said.

Helen Reeve Smith, who suffered from dementia and died last year aged 93, was invoiced for work totalling £30,000 and handed over £10,000.

Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said the men - led by ringleader James Brown Snr - "inveigled" their way into the victims' lives and discouraged them from talking to concerned relatives and neighbours.

Once they had found suitable targets - often by checking bank statements to assess their assets - the gang went back time after time.

Six men, who traded as East Coast Builders, Complete Building Services and AJ Builders, have admitted various charges linked to the fraud.

Judge Dodds is expected to pass sentence on the defendants later this week.

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The defendants:
  • James Brown Snr, 45, of Duffield Drive, Colchester, admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property, three counts of fraud, one relating to loans.
  • William Brown, 49, of Friday Wood Green, Colchester, has pleaded guilty to by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property and fraud
  • James Brown Jnr, 21, of Oak Road, Tiptree, admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and being involved in money laundering.
  • Peter Biddle, 66, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, admitted fraud against three victims and converting criminal property.
  • Van Purdy, 60, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, admitted conspiracy to convert criminal property
  • Anthony Symes, 59, of Clacton Road, Weeley Heath, admitted fraud against two victims and converting criminal property.
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