A FRAIL Wigan pensioner was fleeced out of his £13,000 life savings in a callous building works scam.
A court heard that a man called at the 83-year-old’s home and asked for £600 to carry out minor repairs to the front of the house.
Over the three weeks following the visit on September 3 last year, demands for more money were made, either from men calling at the address, or a woman ringing, calling herself Tracey or Julie.
Prosecutor Andrew Downie said: “A variety of different reasons were given for the need for the money and, by September 27, a little over £13,000 had been handed over.
“That represented a lifetime’s savings put by over his working life to make things a little easier in his elderly years.”
On September 27, the woman again rang asking for £2,800 in respect of VAT and it was agreed someone would later collect it. But meanwhile the pensioner spoke to a neighbour about it, who promptly rang the police.
At the agreed time, 19-year-old Paul Dakin turned up at the house in Lowton for the money, and handed over a mobile phone on which “Tracey” confirmed he should hand over the money to Dakin.
However, police arrived and arrested Dakin, who said he had been instructed to go along with the phone and collect the money, said Mr Downie. He gave police information about the location of the people involved, and consequently Michael Docherty and his wife Ruby Smith were arrested in a nearby black VW Golf.
The phone taken from Dakin contained multiple addresses relating to Docherty’s family.
When he was interviewed, Dakin, who was getting paid just £20 a day and a sandwich, identified two other properties which they had been involved with.
The court heard that the only charge that Docherty had admitted involved one of those addresses in Queen Street, Orrell, occupied by a vulnerable young man who was conned out of £900.
Docherty approached the man on September 11 last year and said that the house looked “tatty” and needed working doing and quoted him £1,500. He asked for £900 upfront, which was handed over, and a small amount of work was done.
The 24-year-old occupant was then told that the work would cost £3,000, but he refused to hand any more money over, said Mr Downie.
“On September 23, he received two calls from a man with an Irish accent demanding he pay for the work, and then heard no more from anyone.”
Mr Downie said that a building expert said that the cost of the work should have been no more than £305, and the poor workmanship meant Docherty should have received no more than £200.
Docherty, 38, of Derby Street, Spring View, pleaded guilty to that fraud and Dakin, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to the fraud involving the pensioner.
That charge against Docherty was laid on the file, as were two offences of conspiracy to defraud against both men.
Docherty’s wife, 41-year-old Ruby Smith, also of Derby Street, denied the conspiracy involving the pensioner, and that was also laid on the file, and she was discharged from the dock.
Jailing Docherty for 12 months, Judge Stephen Clarke said that he had no history of such offending, but the case involved “a serious parasitic form of offences where you prey on the weakness of others.”
The court heard that Docherty has spent the equivalent of 14 months in jail on remand, so the sentence meant his immediate release.
Sentence on Dakin, who suffers from ADHD and had been allowed to sleep in a car outside Docherty’s home as part of his payment for his involvement, was adjourned until May 18.
He was released on bail after emergency arrangements were made for a charitable organisation to find accommodation for him. The judge said that Dakin had had “an absolutely appalling childhood,” and needed help.