England

Jail for gang who conned Clacton and Colchester pensioners out of £1m

  • 3 July 2014
  • From the section England
William Brown, James Brown Junior, Petter Biddle and Van Purdy (l-r) Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption William Brown, James Brown Junior, Peter Biddle and Van Purdy (l-r) were part of the gang

A gang of five rogue traders who conned elderly men and women in Essex out of more than £1m have been jailed.

Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption James Brown Senior led the gang

The group overcharged at least 42 victims between 2009 and 2013, for shoddy building work in Clacton and Colchester.

Many of the victims lived alone or had dementia, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Ringleader James Brown Senior was jailed for 10 years, after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud and three other fraud charges.

Detectives and trading standards officers built their case around 42 victims aged 65 to 99 but believe the actual number of victims may be closer to 140.

Some have since died and others trusted the men so much, they still did not believe they had been duped, Essex Police said.

Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said the men - led by Brown Senior - "inveigled" their way into the victims' lives and discouraged them from talking to concerned relatives and neighbours as they pressurised them into handing over life savings.

The defendants and their sentences:

  • Builder James Brown Snr, 45, of Duffield Drive, Colchester, jailed for 10 years after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property, three counts of fraud, one relating to loans
  • Unemployed William Brown, 49, of Friday Wood Green, Colchester, jailed for seven years after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property and fraud
  • Company director James Brown Jnr, 21, of Oak Road, Tiptree, jailed for four years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and being involved in money laundering
  • Unemployed Peter Biddle, 66, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, sentenced to four years in prison after admitting fraud against three victims and converting criminal property
  • Builder Van Purdy, 60, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, jailed for two years after admitting conspiracy to convert criminal property
  • Self-employed Anthony Symes, 59, of Clacton Road, Weeley Heath, given a suspended prison sentence for two years, after admitting fraud against two victims and converting criminal property

Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said the men - led by Brown Senior - "inveigled" their way into the victims' lives and discouraged them from talking to concerned relatives and neighbours as they pressurised them into handing over life savings.

Once they had found suitable targets - often by checking bank statements - the gang went back time and time again, demanding further cash as they "mined" their accounts, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Among the victims was Andrew Millar, aged 86, who had more than £157,000 stolen.

"I do not consider myself to be someone who is easily hoodwinked but for quite some time I refused to believe I had been the victim of a fraud.

"This gang was very persuasive and spent a long time building up my trust in them so that when they started to take advantage of me, I didn't see it," he said.

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

James Brown Senior, whom one victim dubbed "Smarmy Jim", and fellow gang member William Brown, were both caught on CCTV in a local bank with Mrs Reeve Smith as she withdrew money, just days before being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

After the sentencing, Det Ch Insp Keith Davies from Essex Police, said: "They left many of their victims penniless and they have shown no remorse whatsoever for the suffering and hardship they caused in order to line their own pockets."

Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption The gang defrauded 93-year-old Helen Reeve-Smith out of £10,000 for work that was never completed

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