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Fraudsters jailed after ‘manipulating’ elderly victims to fund lavish lifestyles

Lucy Palmer and Paul Masters were jailed for conning victims out of thousands of pounds Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Lucy Palmer and Paul Masters were jailed for conning victims out of thousands of pounds Picture: ESSEX POLICE

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A gang of fraudsters who “brainwashed” elderly victims into paying thousands of pounds for unneccesary work to their homes have been jailed for a total of more than 16 years.

Christopher Barnes (left) and Damien Salter were jailed for conning victims Picture: ESSEX POLICEChristopher Barnes (left) and Damien Salter were jailed for conning victims Picture: ESSEX POLICE

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

Their victims included an 84-year-old Clacton man who parted with nearly £150,000 for jobs at his home which were later valued at £30,000.

The man paid Christopher Barnes £106,000 for work and Lucy Palmer cooked him meals and cleaned his home.

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

Barnes also cold called an 83-year-old woman in Leigh-on-Sea and offered to clear some weeds.

He then conned her into having work done to her drains and patio that was not needed. The victim paid a total of £33,000 of which £24,000 was paid into an account controlled by Paul Masters.

At Chelmsford Crown Court today, Barnes, 41, of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury, received six years and five months after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud on February 9.

Salter, 29, of Wells Gardens, Pitsea, received four years and Rogers, 38, of the same address, received 18 months, suspended for two years.

They were both previously found guilty by a jury of fraud by false representation.

Masters, 60, of Lower Road, Pitsea, received three years for money laundering and Lucy Palmer, 35, of Barle Gardens, South Ockendon, received three years after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

Masters and Barnes have both been made subject to serious crime prevention orders while Rogers is subject to a six-month curfew between 7pm and 6am.

Other victims included a 79-year-old woman who paid Barnes £28,000 for block paving at her home and nearly sold her home to him for £27,000, which was well below the true market value.

Dc Lee Winfield, investigating officer, said: “Every person sentenced today played a key role in this sophisticated operation, which involved brainwashing victims into believing they were not victims of crime.

“The money illegally obtained from the victims by manipulation and deception helped fund lavish lifestyles. The victims were identified by these cowardly and callous crooks due their age, vulnerability and in some cases, poor health.

“Their attempts to dupe a jury were in vain and today four of them have been locked in prison.”

The granddaughter of one of the victims, who did not wish to be named, said “It is an absolute disgrace what these people have done to their victims.

“They showed no care, no compassion and gave no thought or consideration to the impact that their cruel and heartless actions had on their victims.

“Today brought closure with the judge and jury putting four of them behind bars.”

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