A CARER who helped identify a gang of fraudsters has been given an award.

Wendy Sonley cares for an elderly Parkinson's sufferer in the Malton area, and in October 2012 discovered he had repeatedly made payments totalling £250,000 in eight years to an organised crime group posing as property repair tradesmen.

She alerted North Yorkshire Police, and a Trading Standards investigation - Operation Opal - subsequently found similar victims in York, Harrogate and Bridlington had been defrauded out of tens of thousands of pounds by the gang.

Mrs Sonley received a Hero Award at the Trading Standards Institute’s (TSI) Conference in Harrogate this week, and won praise from County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for Trading Standards.

Coun Metcalfe said: "We are deeply grateful to Wendy for her vigilance and her courage in alerting officers to this terrible crime against a vulnerable and elderly member of our community.

"She is an example to all of us of the role we can play in the fight against doorstep crime. Members of the public must not under-estimate the vital role they can play in reporting such offending and doorstep callers to us immediately. Offenders need to be aware that we are utterly committed to bringing them to justice and using all available tools to target their behaviour."

North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards said the fraud - which saw over-priced, shoddy and unnecessary property repairs carried out - 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.

In February 2014, 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. In May, the Court of Appeal increased the sentences for the two main offenders to seven and a half years and four years.