FRAUDSTERS who funded lavish lifestyles by cold calling elderly victims and demanding extortionate amounts of money for unnecessary work to their homes have been convicted.
A jury found Damien Salter, 29, and Samantha Rogers, 38, both of Wells Gardens, Pitsea, guilty of fraud by false representation.
Paul Masters, 60, of Lower Road, Pitsea, was convicted for money laundering and Lucy Palmer, 35, of Barle Gardens, South Ockendon, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
The jury returned its verdicts yesterday, Tuesday, August 21 following a nine-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Christopher Barnes, 41, of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on February 9.
They were charged after five elderly victims were targeted between October 2015 and September 2017. The oldest victim was 85.
Our investigations found that:
* An 85-year-old man from Clacton paid Christopher Barnes £106,000 for jobs to his home that were later valued at £30,000. During construction work, Lucy Palmer cooked him meals and cleaned his home.
* Damien Salter received £38,000 from the same man for unnecessary work that was paid into an account belonging to Rogers.
* A 79-year-old woman paid Barnes £28,000 for block paving at her home and almost sold her home to him for £27,000 being well below the true market value.
* A 74-year-old man told police in hospital that he had paid Barnes and Palmer a five-figure sum of cash for work to his home. They both pretended to be concerned friends to stop him disclosing the crime to police.
* Barnes cold called an 83-year-old woman in Leigh-on-Sea and offered to clear some weeds. He then conned her into having work done to her drains and patio that was not needed. The victim paid a total of £33,000. £24,000 of this was paid into an account controlled by Paul Masters.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Lee Winfield said: “Barnes identified elderly victims, some of whom were in poor health, and then gained access to their lives with the aim of illegally funding his own lifestyle and those of his associates.
“He charmed and convinced them to pay extortionate amounts for unnecessary work.
“He worked closely with Palmer, who adopted the role of being a so-called carer and friend and distracted and monitored them.
“Masters received money from these victims to launder the cash.
“In 2017, Salter returned to one of the victims and played the role that Barnes had previously played during 2015 to 2016.
“He also transferred his fraudulent profits into the account of his girlfriend, Samantha Rogers.
“Everyone played a key role in this sophisticated operation, which involved brainwashing victims into believing they were not victims of crime.
“I’m pleased that a jury were not convinced by their lies and I hope these verdicts offer the victims and their families some justice.”
Sentencing was adjourned until September 26.