When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Accrington cowboy builder gets 10 years in jail
10:30am Wednesday 20th June 2012 in Accrington
A COWBOY builder who conned elderly and vulnerable people out of more than £400,000 has been jailed for almost ten years.
Sydney Fletcher, 40, of Exchange Street, Accrington, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to nine charges of fraud.
Fletcher also admitted two further charges of benefit fraud by claiming, while carrying out his ‘despicable’ cons, that he could not walk more than five yards.
He was jailed for a total of nine years for his building work frauds, with a consecutive nine-month sentence for the benefit frauds through which he obtained £51,306.
Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said the frauds involved nine elderly or vulnerable people living in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands, who were conned into handing over a total of £404,605.
He said: “He has preyed on them and taken their savings. They were elderly or vulnerable, some were in very poor health, and one has since died. The confidence fraud involves him agreeing to undertake building work which was never done or was only partly done or done to a very poor standard.”
Mr Amarasinghe said Fletcher’s work was worth just £17,000 in total, some of which required further remedial work.
Investigations involving the police and Trading Standards officers began in late 2009 but Fletcher, who had given his unfortunate customers a series of false business addresses, was not arrested until February this year.
Alan Compton, defending, said: “Nothing I say in mitigation should be seen as minimising the trauma these people must have suffered. He knows he must face a lengthy custodial sentence.This is plainly a case of deliberate targeting of vulnerable victims.”
He said Fletcher, who had just one previous conviction for a car tax fraud when he was 24, should get credit for his pleas, and pointed out that his benefit claims were legitimate when he first made them.
Of the main frauds, he said: “He got heavily into debt because of a serious gambling problem and money owed to loan sharks.”
Judge Marten Coates said Fletcher’s targeting of vulnerable people was “persistent and deliberate and merciless”.