The country’s national trading standards body has praised Croydon Council for successfully prosecuting a network of rogue roofers and money launderers who conned thousands of pounds from vulnerable people.
The 10 people received sentences ranging from community orders to several years’ imprisonment for their part in duping 19 victims aged 60 to 92 from Croydon, elsewhere in London, the South East and the Midlands into paying thousands for unnecessary roof repairs.
The final sentencing took place on Wednesday 20 January at Croydon Crown Court, following earlier hearings on 10 September and 22 December.
Between March 2016 and June 2017 the fraudsters pressured their victims into expensive roof repairs that were either completely unnecessary, done badly or not done at all. One victim in his seventies, from Lee in south-east London, paid £12,250 on 7 March 2016 for roof and windows work that an expert witness later found was worth £28.
In July 2016, a couple in their seventies from South Norwood in Croydon were persuaded to agree to roof and guttering work for £14,200 – the actual value was later found to be £1,324. A neighbour of theirs in his eighties ultimately paid £39,560 for a roof job worth £650. Other cases included a Southampton victim who paid £26,350 for work that a chartered surveyor later found had no value.
The court heard that a common tactic was to tell the victim they had noticed roof damage while doing work for a neighbour. After the money was paid by cash, cheque or electronic transfer, the fraudsters then used a network of contacts to launder the money via different bank accounts.
The investigation began when a Croydon trading standards officer discovered the South Norwood frauds. He then found a Greenwich woman paid £22,000 to an individual he was already investigating. This led to police arrests and a complex enquiry led by Croydon trading standards officers, with support from National Trading Standards, examining mobile handsets, call data and bank records to show links and evidence trails.
Steven O’Driscoll, aged 29, of Hever Road in Edenbridge, Kent, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. He and his brother Anthony, aged 39, of the same address, were convicted of conspiracy to conceal, disguise, convert or transfer criminal property. Steven was jailed for four years and three months. Anthony was jailed for 18 months, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £30,200 compensation to two victims and do 100 hours’ unpaid work. Both were made the subject of Criminal Behaviour Orders.
Bertie Palmer, aged 50, of Tilney Road, Dagenham, and Colette Thompson, aged 32, of Daventry Green, Romford, were convicted of charges of converting criminal property. Palmer was jailed for 28 months, while Thompson was jailed for 26 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 30 days’ rehabilitation activity and 100 hours’ unpaid work.
Details of the other six defendants’ sentences can be found via a release on their court cases.
“I am immensely proud of our superb trading standards team which has been at the forefront of a nationwide investigation. By successfully prosecuting a network of devious conmen and women who preyed on the vulnerable they have almost certainly prevented further crimes from happening not just in Croydon but across the country.
“Let this be a warning to other unscrupulous individuals that we will do all we can to tackle these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Councillor David Wood, cabinet member for communities, safety and resilience
Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said, “These ten individuals deliberately targeted people in vulnerable situations on their own doorsteps. In many cases they pressurised victims – who were often older people living alone – into work that they didn’t want or need.
“I would like to congratulate the local and national trading standards officers whose joint work has brought these criminals to justice.”
Andrew Clooney, chair of the National Trading Standards Tri Regional Investigations Team added, “Officers from our regional investigations team were able to provide significant investigational and operational support to trading standards officers from the London Borough of Croydon.
“This has been a long and complex investigation and was a particularly nasty case where older people were targeted by criminals over a wide area of London, East of England and as far as the West Midlands.”
To report suspected doorstep frauds, call Citizens’ Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.