Essex fraudsters jailed for conning elderly

Paul Masters, Lucy Palmer, Damien Salter and Christopher Barnes Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Paul Masters, Lucy Palmer, Damien Salter and Christopher Barnes were jailed for a total of 16 years

A group of fraudsters who almost tricked a pensioner into selling her home for £27,000 have been jailed.

Christopher Barnes, 41, Paul Masters, 60, Lucy Palmer, 35, and Damien Salter, 29, demanded huge amounts of money from elderly people for unnecessary work on their homes.

The gang, who befriended the victims, were sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Essex Police called the gang's scam a "sophisticated operation".

Barnes, of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 9 February. He received six years and seven months.

Masters, of Lower Road, Pitsea, was sentenced to three years for money laundering and Palmer, of Barle Gardens, South Ockendon, received three years for conspiracy to defraud.

Salter, of Wells Gardens, Pitsea, received four years for fraud by false representation. Samantha Rogers, 38, of the same address, was handed an 18-month suspended sentence for the same charge.

They were found guilty in August following a nine-week trial.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The fraudsters befriended the victims, even cooking and cleaning for them

The court heard how the gang targeted five elderly victims between October 2015 and September 2017.

One 85-year-old man from Clacton paid Barnes £106,000 for work on his home that was later valued at £30,000. During construction work, Palmer cooked him meals and cleaned his home.

The same man also paid Salter £38,000 for unnecessary work that was paid into an account belonging to Rogers.

Another elderly man told police in hospital that he had paid Barnes and Palmer a five-figure sum of cash for work on his home.

Barnes also cold-called an 83-year-old woman in Leigh-on-Sea and offered to clear some weeds. He then tricked her into having unnecessary work on her drains and patio, costing a total of £33,000.

Around £24,000 of this was paid into an account controlled by Masters.

Speaking after the sentencing, investigating officer Det Insp Gary Biddle said he was "really pleased" with the result and called the fraudsters "evil".

"They targeted and befriended the most vulnerable people in our community," he said. "

They were very good at conning their victims. It was a horrendous abuse of trust."

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