People who prey on the vulnerable and elderly are below contempt. They are weak cowards who don’t want to be part of a civilised society and as such need to be excluded from our society. Our trading standards team, together with the police, have done just that to this miserable bunch.
Five rogue traders who preyed on elderly and vulnerable people in and around Cambridgeshire have been sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
At Cambridge Crown Court (November 12) Joseph Henry Lee, the ringleader of the gang, was sentenced to seven years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences.
Accomplices James William Forrest, Joseph Bellman Jonathan Lee, Andrew Hodson and Owen Sexton, received sentences of between seven months and five and a half years after admitting conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. See details below.
The sentencing was the culmination of a two year investigation into rogue trading activity conducted by Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards service and the Police after complaints were first received in summer 2010.
The gang ripped off over one hundred customers, some of whom handed over their life savings as grossly-inflated payment for poor quality and often unnecessary work the conmen undertook. One victim was even persuaded to sign over his property to the rogues.
We welcome the sentences imposed. Not only did these people rip off their victims but they have also caused a considerable amount of harm and distress to them too. Some victims paid several thousands of pounds for work that didn’t even need doing. These criminals are the lowest of the low, often preying on the most vulnerable members of society to extort huge financial sums.
The money launderers cashed cheques paid by rogue trading victims, taking a cut of typically ten per cent, to avoid alerting banks to the large sums the rogues were bringing in from their illegal activities.
Judge Nicholas Coleman said the actions of the gang were ‘thoroughly wicked’ and of a ‘predatory and audacious nature.’
Detective Chief Inspector Jim McCrorie said: “Operation Magpie is a great example of the force’s commitment to work with partner agencies to tackle criminality in the county. Those involved in these offences deliberately preyed on the elderly and vulnerable which is completely unacceptable. We will continue to use all the tactics available to us to ensure offenders like these are targeted and brought to justice.”
Financial Investigators are now working to determine the financial benefit gained from the criminal activity, thought to be in the region of £700,000, and the next step is to seek compensation for the victims.
Cambridgeshire County Council Trading Standards Officers praised the many victims who were brave enough to stand up to these offenders by giving evidence to support the prosecution.
If you think that you, a friend, relative or neighbour has been a victim of a rogue trader, please contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0845 4040506.
Joseph Henry Lee, 34, of Chesterton, Cambridge pleased guilty to conspiracy to defraud 17 elderly and vulnerable victims – he was sentenced to a total of seven years in prison.
James William Forrest, 49, of Overbook Nursery, Landbeach, admitted conspiracy to defraud – sentence five and a half years.
Joseph Bellman Jonathan Lee, 25, of Overbook Nursery, Landbeach, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and to money laundering – sentence 27 months.
Andrew Hodson, 29, of Histon Road, Cottenham, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of money laundering – sentence 27 months.
Owen Sexton, 39, of Fletcher Road, Rushden, admitted four offences of money laundering – sentence 7 months.