Rogue traders preyed on elderly in Norfolk and Suffolk

Two rogue traders who conned elderly and vulnerable victims out of their life savings were last night starting lengthy jail sentences.

Michael Williams, 33, and Anthony Field, 27, joined forces to target households in Norfolk and Suffolk, persuading their victims to have home improvements done, but did not carry out the work on most of the homes.

On occasions, they even drove residents to cashpoint machines so they could take money out for the fraudsters, Norwich Crown Court was told yesterday.

More than 30 households were targeted during the spree and the devastated victims' losses ran into tens of thousands of pounds. Statements from those affected showed that many had been left with their trust shattered and their confidence lost, as well as the obvious financial hardship.

Katherine Moore, prosecuting, said the cases put before the court involved 28 households, but that a total of 35 homes had been targeted in areas including Lowestoft, Kessingland, North Walsham, Halesworth, Winterton and Ipswich.

Williams, of Westland Road, Lowestoft, who admitted he had targeted 26 victims between 2008 and 2010, taking a total of at least �61,000, was jailed for a total of eight years.

Field, of Chaukers Crescent, Carlton Colville, formerly of St Peter's Street, Lowestoft, admitted his involvement in targeting 15 homes. He stole at least �16,000 and received a total of six years in prison.

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Sentencing them, Judge Peter Jacobs said: 'This sort of offence is abominable to all right-minded people.'

Ms Moore said in the vast majority of cases none of the work agreed was ever carried out and that in many cases the defendants had tried to cover their trail by taking back documents from their victims.

In the beginning, the reputable firm Regional Plastics was used as a front for the fraud, then, after it stopped trading, a second reputable firm called JD Roofline was used.

Both of these companies were run by Williams' brother, but Ms Moore stressed that he had no involvement in the crimes.

Later, Williams set up Oulton Drives and Plastics to carry on the fraud.

Before yesterday's sentencing, Williams had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to defraud – one count involving using Regional Plastics as a vehicle, one using JD Roofline, and one using Oulton Drives and Plastics.

Field had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud using JD Roofline and one using Oulton Drives and Plastics.

His involvement had been between May 2010 and September 2010, and he had admitted being involved with 15 victims and taken at least �16,162.

The investigation that led to yesterday's sentencing was a joint effort between Norfolk police's Operation RADAR team – which investigates bogus callers and rogue traders – and Suffolk police .

Judge Jacobs commended the officers involved in the case, including Det Con Steve Moseley and Det Con Denny Davis from Norfolk police.

John Morgans, representing Williams, said his client was 'genuinely sorry' for what he had done and recognised the impact his actions had had.

He said Williams' marriage had got into difficulties and there had been deaths in his family. He added that this had led to gambling addiction which meant Williams' finances became more and more problematic.

Andrew Oliver, for Field, said his client's role in the crimes had been a subordinate one and that he had started at Regional Plastics as a legitimate salesman. His involvement had been during a relatively narrow window of time from May to September 2010.

His added that Field's life had spiralled out of control and he had a debt of about �30,000. He had served with the Royal Anglians in Afghanistan and Iraq and the brutal reality of war he had seen continued to haunt and distress him.

Det Sgt Pete Jessop, head of Operation RADAR at Norfolk police, said: 'This sentence really enforces the strong stance that the courts and the police are taking against rogue traders. These are not cheeky chaps or Arthur Daley characters. These are out and out fraudsters prepared to take people's important life savings from them. I think the sentence given out really reinforces what we are doing through Operation RADAR and with our partners in Suffolk CID.

'The advice from us is do not deal with people who come to your house and offer you services that are unguaranteed and from people who are not trustworthy.'

Det Sgt Simon Bridgland, from Suffolk police, said they were delighted with the result at yesterday's sentencing.

He said: 'They deliberately targeted vulnerable residents and conned considerable sums of money from them –- in some cases their life savings. Many were in poor health and have since suffered both emotionally and financially as a consequence of the actions of Williams and Field.'