'Fiercely independent' Northampton pensioner who died in care home was left penniless by fraudulent builders, court hears

Clockwise: Charles Doherty, Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, Michael Rooksby, John Lee.
Clockwise: Charles Doherty, Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, Michael Rooksby, John Lee.

Four rogue builders who together conned more than £30,000 from an elderly Northampton man, as well as dozens of other pensioners across the country, have been jailed.

Northampton Crown Court yesterday (October 30) heard how Charles Doherty, 28, John Lee, 44, Michael Rooksby, 28, and Charles Michael Hugh Doherty, 33, swindled 28 households across the Midlands for more than £138,000.

They targeted and used cold-calling tactics on elderly and vulnerable homeowners to "fix their roofs", before ordering them to pay thousands of pounds for their "negligible" work.

Five of their victims died during Trading Standards investigations, including one elderly man from Northampton was left penniless by their schemes.

They were sentenced to a total of more than 12 years.

His Honour Judge Roger Tregilgas-Davey said: “This involved cold-calling elderly, vulnerable people at their homes... deliberately to take advantage of them... Some of them had memory problems, mobility problems or Alzheimer’s. Their ages ranged from 71 to 93.

“You charged extortionate prices for work that often just made the situation worse or was never needed. The actual loss, if you were to tot it up, could be more than £138,000.”

The builders followed a four-step process when targeting their victims. They would cold-call at their house and offer to fix a minor problem on the roof. They would charge a small fee for the work - but then spot more serious problems that would need extensive repairs, often demanding thousands of pounds in cash.

But none of these problems existed. The court heard how they would then begin “tapping the well” - making repeat visits to the house to charge them more money.

One victim was an 82-year-old man from Northampton, who they “tapped” for over £30,000 in three visits to his home. When he tried to make a fourth withdrawal of £13,000, his bank told him he had insufficient funds. They had left him penniless and taken all his life savings.

Fearing for his safety, his family put him in a care home. He later died of cancer during the investigation.

A victim impact statement from his daughter, which was read out in court, said: “Dad was fiercely independant. He didn't want to leave his home. He was deprived of what would have been the last few months in his home. He couldn't say goodbye to his friends or neighbours.

"He couldn't believe he had been so stupid. He was not a wealthy man."

Trading standards caught and convicted the four men using fingerprint evidence from flyers they handed out as well as eyewitness and home CCTV footage.

They all pleaded guilty later in court. Lee was pointed to for lending the group vehicles and was jailed for three years and four months. Charles Michael Hugh Doherty has convictions for similar schemes and helped swindle £75,000 for their victims in total losses. He was sentenced to four years and 10 months.

Charles Doherty was involved with the group for around three months and was handed 27 months in prison. Michael Rooksby is currently serving time in prison and refused to show up at court for sentencing. He has had three years and 11 months added to his sentence.