A group of men who duped pensioners into paying extortionate prices for unnecessary home renovations were sentenced last week at Woolwich Crown Court.
Patrick O’Driscoll, Damian Foley and Danny Haygreen targeted elderly men who lived alone in a bid to obtain large amounts of money from them that were for made-up faults in their home.
In Spring 2013 they door-stepped their first victim, a 69-year-old from Lewisham, and agreed with him that they would complete paid work to fix his leaky roof.
They then convinced him that he needed improvements to his home, including a replacement door and step, and re-plastering. The value of all this work was no more than £5,000, but he was told it would cost £35,000.
The group inundated the victim with around 300 phone calls in three months, many of the calls social to groom the victim and gain his trust. They also convinced him that the repair work was becoming a bigger job and quickly escalated the charge to £101,600.
The victim was visited by various men who collected payments totalling £94,000 from him. Having used up his life savings to pay this much, he applied to his bank for loans.
Bank staff who were concerned by these unusual transactions contacted the police and when the next payment the of £7,000 was due officers were waiting to arrest Haygreen, while O’Driscoll and Foley were arrested at their homes.
Through further investigation, two more victims were identified, an 82-year-old man from Twickenham and a 93-year old man from Kensington, who had been duped out of £16,000 and £37,000 respectively between 16 September and 3 October 2013.
These victims had been followed home from the shops by a number of the group, where they were told that they were in urgent need of drain repair work. After talking their way into the homes, the defendants spilt water over the kitchen floor to fool the victims, who – thinking the matter urgent – dashed out to withdraw cash immediately.
In his victim impact statement, the 69-year-old victim from Lewisham, said: “I feel the people who did this to me are the sort of people that should be put away for a long time. I think that if police had not got involved they would not have stopped demanding money from me.”
Patrick O’Driscoll, 40, of Potters Bar, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud on and was sentenced today to five years imprisonment for each count to run concurrently.
Damian Foley, 48 of Finchley, pleaded guilty to three counts of money laundering for which he was sentenced to 19 months imprisonment.
Danny Haygreen, 28 of Herfordshire, pleaded guilty to attempting to obtain criminal property and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.He was also ordered to carry out 90 hours unpaid work.
A financial investigation is underway. A date for a confiscation hearing is to be set.
Investigating officer Detective Inspector Rob Fisher, of the LCS, said: “This group handpicked victims who lived alone and had a trusting nature. Having convinced them that they needed work done, the group besieged the victims with phone calls, both to earn their trust and land them with increasingly extortionate debts.
“Their control over their victims was deeply disturbing. When we intervened, the victim in Lewisham was considering signing over the deeds to his house in order to settle the bill. He had also been convinced not to talk to anyone else about the supposed building work.
“The victims feared debt and they feared these men, who were aggressive and unrelenting in their pursuit of cash. It will be a long time, if ever, that the victims’ faith in others is restored but I hope that the conviction and sentencing of this unscrupulous group will at least help them begin to feel safer.”