VICTIMS of a callous cowboy builder who conned elderly people out of more than £400,000 are to get 68 per cent of their money back, thanks to the work of police financial investigators.
Sydney Fletcher had been jailed for nine years – later reduced to seven – at Warwick Crown Court in 2012 for nine offences of defrauding elderly and vulnerable people, including in Alcester and near Redditch. The 42-year-old was also given nine months for benefit fraud at the same time.
A confiscation hearing at Warwick Crown Court, held under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Warwick Crown Court, heard how the Bidford-on-Avon resident benefited from his criminal activity by almost £750,000 – £400,000 of which he got from his cowboy building cons and £51,000 from his benefit frauds and other cash which had gone through his bank accounts.
A lengthy investigation by Warwickshire Police established he had available assets of £275,000 including £4,160 seized from him and held by the police when he was originally arrested in 2012.
Judge Alan Parker ordered the cash to be relinquished immediately, and Fletcher should pay the balance of £270,840 within six months or face an additional three years in prison in default.
It was agreed £274,519 of the money, which represents 68 per cent of what the victims lost, should be used to pay compensation.
Investigations into Fletcher’s activity began in late 2009 but it took until February 2012 to arrest him as he had given a series of false business addresses.
Among his victims was a 68-year-old woman living near Alcester, who was suffering from cancer at the time and had been given just months to live. Despite being made aware of that, Fletcher fleeced her out of £9,000 she had put aside for her anticipated funeral.
He even insisting on the woman, who survived her cancer, travelling to her bank to withdraw cash for him.
He also heartlessly targeted a devout Christian after meeting her on a car park in May 2011 and spinning her a sob-story about his family having had their caravan stolen.
She gave him a book she had written about her faith, and as a result he traced the 81-year-old to her home near Redditch, where she lived with her husband who was blind and had dementia.
After telling her she needed moss removing from her roof, he offered to do it for £2,500 – and after she had paid him he claimed he had found a number of broken roof tiles. He kept quoting for more and more work, up to a total of £82,000, and the pensioner was so trusting she even gave him £8,000 as a gift after he claimed he needed to replace his vehicle in order to be able to continue working.