A roofer who fleeced nine vulnerable elderly people out of £50,000 by overcharging for substandard work has been jailed for four years.
William Wallace, 39, admitted nine fraud charges against pensioners in three counties ranging in age from 70 to 88 years.
Wallace, of Justin Park caravan park, Northampton Road, Market Harborough was told by Judge Simon Hammond, at Leicester Crown Court, that his deliberate targeting of pensioners was both “despicable, pitiless and heartless”.
John Hallissey, prosecuting, said his crimes came to light when a building society cashier became suspicious about a request from an elderly customer, who had been escorted there by Wallace, to raise a cheque for £7,600.
The building society refused to issue the cheque and raised concerns with Northamptonshire County Council trading standards.
The investigation revealed how over the previous three months, his victim had paid three cheques totalling £21,600 for work to her property. A surveyor commissioned by trading standards examined the work and valued it at just £500.
Mr Hallissey said the woman, who is now dead, was intimidated by Wallace who was described as a large imposing man.
He said Wallace preyed on victims in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Suffolk during 2011.
The court heard he had 51 previous convictions including dishonesty, harassment, theft, burglary and handling stolen goods.
Judge Hammond said: “You basically ran a business during 2011 to defraud and exploit and extract money from vulnerable elderly victims.
“The system was to arrive unannounced at a house to claim there was a defect on the roof and offer to rectify the defect.
“Sometimes you quoted for work, sometimes not. You often said there were future works that had to be made.
“You would then charge extortionate amounts of money. Sometimes, a little work was done with little value, sometimes none at all was done.”
“This victim had to get a loan just to get by because she had been fleeced of all her money.”
“Any right-minded person would find these offences despicable, pitiless and heartless. You would often go back for more and more money.
“The courts have a duty to protect the vulnerable members of our society.”
Jagvir Sangherra, for Wallace, said the father-of-five, had been battling a dependency on class A drugs.
He said: “He was a drug addict and dependent on alcohol and he was perhaps being used by others, who are possibly more sophisticated than he.”
Two men who helped him launder cheques through their bank accounts were each jailed for six months.
Lee Warburton, and Craig Taylor, both of Whitehaven caravan park, Market Harborough, pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Councillor Ben Smith, cabinet member for environment at Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Wallace used cold calling methods to catch his victims unprepared, telling them they needed work done to repair defects.
“He then went on to carry out work to a substandard quality and hugely overcharged his victims.
“Members of the public should never feel pressured into making a decision or agreeing on the doorstep to having work done. Our advice is to avoid opening the door to someone if you’re not expecting them.”