A cowboy builder who fleeced elderly, infirm and vulnerable pensioners by promising to do work that he never completed has been jailed.
Alan Fitzgerald, aged 47, was branded a “truly despicable” conman before he was jailed for six years for a string of cons, committed over a two-year period in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Fitzgerald, from Stanwick, near Wellingborough, conned his 39 victims out of a total of £300,000 either by promising to do building work that he never completed or by grossly overcharging them.
On one occasion, a victim in Northampton paid £29,780 for work that had an actual value of no more than £9,600.
Fitzgerald falsely told one 94-year-old victim she had asbestos in her guttering and tricked her into fearing she could be prosecuted for this.The trickster, described as “misleading, aggressive and dishonest”, conned her out of £6,000.
Northampton Crown Court heard how Fitzgerald would drive his victims to cash points so they could withdraw money for him. Many of his victims had their life savings stolen, the court was told.
He targeted elderly victims, preyed on the infirm and intimidated pensioners by warning that their homes urgently required repair work.
Once he had identified a vulnerable victim, he would continue to “tap the well”, the court heard, and would return time and time again to fleece them of more cash.
The court heard how brazen Fitzgerald even continued to rip-off customers after his first appearance in court last year.
Fitzgerald committed the frauds while operating two companies: Fitz Multi Trade Builders between November 2011 and January 2012, and then A J Builders, between October 2012 and October last year.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent trading, one charge in relation to each of his firms.
Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards team said it had received complaints about Fitzgerald dating back to 2005 and had issued him with a number of warnings.
Officers said there were a further 46 complaints not included in the formal charges.
Fitzgerald, who has no formal building qualifications and has never filed a tax return for either company, was jailed on Tuesday.
He was sentenced to a total of six years in prison and was disqualified for being a director of any company for 10 years.
Sentencing him, Judge Richard Bray said: “I have to sentence you for serious premeditated frauds.
“I am satisfied that you targeted vulnerable victims, pressuring them into handing large sums of money to you, often in cash and often representing substantial parts off their life savings.
“Ten of the victims in the first indictment alone were over 70. Many of them were infirm, some of them had carers,
“One of them was a lady aged 94. You threatened her that she could be prosecuted if she didn’t have repair work carried out by you.
“You obtained £6,000 in advance from her for work you didn’t carry out properly, or at all. It is a truly despicable offence.”
Judge Bray added: “You wilfully ignored the warnings given to you by trading standards.
“After you had been arrested in 2011 by the police and subsequently made bankrupt, you simply started up all over again.
“The suffering to the members of these households can only be guessed at.”