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Gang of fraudsters who conned elderly victims found guilty after trial

PUBLISHED: 16:06 22 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:06 22 August 2018

The gang were found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The gang were found guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Archant

Essex fraudsters who targeted elderly victims and demanded extortionate amounts of money for unnecessary home improvement work to fund lavish lifestyles have been convicted.

Damien Salter, 29, and Samantha Rogers, 38, both of Wells Gardens, Pitsea, were found guilty of fraud by false representation.

Paul Masters, 60, of Lower Road, Pitsea, was convicted for money laundering and Lucy Palmer, 35, of Barle Gardens, South Ockendon, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

The jury returned its verdicts yesterday following a nine-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Christopher Barnes, 41, of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on February 9.

They were charged after five elderly victims were targeted between October 2015 and September 2017. The oldest victim was 85.

The victims included an 85-year-old man from Clacton, who paid Christopher Barnes £106,000 for jobs to his home that were later valued at £30,000.

During construction work, Palmer cooked him meals and cleaned his home.

Salter received £38,000 from the same man for unnecessary work that was paid into an account belonging to Rogers.

Other victims included an 83-year-old woman from Leigh-on-Sea, who was cold called by Barnes with an offer to clear some weeds.

He then conned her into having work done to her drains and patio that was not needed and the victim paid a total of £33,000.

Of that total, £24,000 was paid into an account controlled by Paul Masters.

DC Lee Winfield, investigating officer, said: “Barnes identified elderly victims, some of whom were in poor health, and then gained access to their lives with the aim of illegally funding his own lifestyle and those of his associates.

“He charmed and convinced them to pay extortionate amounts for unnecessary work.

“He worked closely with Palmer, who adopted the role of being a so-called carer and friend and distracted and monitored them.

“Masters received money from these victims to launder the cash.

“In 2017, Salter returned to one of the victims and played the role that Barnes had previously played during 2015 to 2016.

“He also transferred his fraudulent profits into the account of his girlfriend, Samantha Rogers.

“Everyone played a key role in this sophisticated operation, which involved brainwashing victims into believing they were not victims of crime.

“I’m pleased that a jury were not convinced by their lies and I hope these verdicts offer the victims and their families some justice.”

Sentencing was adjourned until September 26.

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The list was put together by a panel of judges this summer after we asked readers for their nominations.

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