FOUR men who defrauded elderly and vulnerable people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds have been jailed for a total of nearly ten years.

The fraudsters carried out shoddy, over-priced and unnecessary property repairs in York and North Yorkshire and laundered proceeds of almost £340,000.

Their victims included a man in his 70’s from the York area with mental health difficulties, who was defrauded out of £12,200, and a man with poor health from the Malton area, who lost £250,000 over an eight-year period.

A woman in her 80’s with dementia from the Bridlington area was defrauded out of £18,532, another Bridlington couple was defrauded of £26,638 and a further 12 victims, including a woman in her 70s from the York area, were also defrauded out of a total of £30,772.

North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards, which investigated and prosecuted the case, said it was the worst example of repeat victimisation it had ever encountered.

The men, Monty David Croke, 46, of Field Drive, Pickering; his two sons, Monty Croke Jr, 26, and Billy Croke, 23, both of Thistle Hill Travellers Site, Knareborough; and James Paul Coverdale, 35, of Ings Garth, Pickering; pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud householders in relation to shoddy, over-priced and unnecessary property repairs.

Monty David Croke was jailed for five years; Monty Croke Jnr for two and a half years, Billy Croke for 12 months and James Paul Coverdale for 15 months, suspended for two years.

Sentencing the men at Teeside Crown Court, His Honour Judge Briggs said: “The elderly and vulnerable are a growing part of our community, and frequently have valuable assets which are attractive to the ruthless and greedy.

“The wrong-doing (in this case) spanned a considerable period of time.” The judge said Monty David Croke had effectively stripped the Malton victim of his available assets and had “played him in a cunning and devious way.”

He praised the ‘very great care’ trading standards had devoted to a very difficult case and added: "The other rather refreshing feature of it is it's good to know that out in the community there are a numbers of people who keep their eyes open."

The daughters of one of the York victims said:“We are very grateful to North Yorkshire Trading Standards for bringing these offenders to justice and ensuring that elderly, frail and vulnerable members of our community are protected from these villains”.

Members of the Malton victim’s family said: “It is difficult to comprehend the callousness of the people who inveigle their way into the lives of vulnerable people, groom them and often leave them in dire financial difficulties.

"It was only the vigilance of our brother’s carer that uncovered this matter and brought it to the attention of the authorities. Our family is indebted to her for all her care and kindness.”

Coun Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said the case had been ‘shocking and distressing, even to those of us who are hardened to this type of appalling and heartless crime.

“That offenders such as these can undertake the ruthless exploitation of vulnerable adults in this way, often for prolonged periods, is disgusting and abhorrent.”