TWO Irish Travellers who charged elderly residents extortionate prices for inadequate and often unnecessary repair work have been jailed.
Thomas Maughan, 27, and Thomas Mahon, 46, who lived at a caravan site in Princes Park, Farringdon, near Exeter, conned their victims into parting with hundreds of pounds of cash for the construction and paving work between August and November 2013.
The pair appeared at Exeter Crown Court on Thursday, February 4, where they were each sentenced to 12 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud.
A third man, Matthew Latham, 35, from the same address, was handed a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and instructed to do 150 hours of unpaid work for his role in the crimes.
The rogue traders used him as a frontman for the schemes due to his local accent.
The group, who carried out the deceptive work under the business name Wimpey Construction, Paving and Cleaning, targeted victims in Newton Abbot, Dawlish and Seaton.
A 93-year-old pensioner in Seaton escaped handing over £5,200 for paving work on his drive after a bank cashier became suspicious and alerted police.
A woman in Newton Abbot was forced to go to a cashpoint to withdraw £490 for unsatisfactory work.
An 81-year-old man, from Seaton, who has since died, became suspicious of the gang when they demanded cash half-way through carrying out work on his drive. He was so concerned about their behaviour and attitude he called the police.
A Japanese widow in Seaton who spoke little English was also a victim of the scam, as was a man in Dawlish who returned from holiday and was made to pay for work on his drive that he had not asked for.
Maughan and Mahon had denied conspiracy to defraud but were found guilty after an eight-day trial at Exeter Crown Court, whilst Latham admitted the same offence.
Judge Erik Salomonsen said that Maughan and Mahon were the heart of the conspiracy and although he had sympathy for Maughan’s role as the father of a disabled child, their behaviour was wholly unacceptable.
He added that the men’s approach was marked by their willingness to be belligerent, and extricating cash from elderly, vulnerable, and lone female victims, escorting and surveying customers while they withdrew money from cashpoints to pay them.
Maughan and Mahon were jointly ordered to pay the prosecution costs of over £23,000.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards said: “These traders were mainly concerned with extracting as much money as they could, and would negotiate pricing based on the perceived vulnerability of their victims.”