ELDERLY victims of a crooked alarm company boss – who charged them up to 20 times the true cost for products – will get back the money they lost.
Conman Derek Hepple made £774,621 through his criminal lifestyle, which included fleecing £120,000 out of pensioners who turned to him for security advice in a bid to feel safe in their homes.
Hepple, who was jailed for four years and eight months for the scam, deliberately targeted pensioners across the UK and persuaded them to hand over huge sums of cash to his security firm Night and Day, based at Front Street, Washington.
The 44-year old – who was paying no tax or VAT and had carried out a similar scam with his previous company – used the cash to splash out on houses, holidays and luxury treats.
Investigators pursued Hepple under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and he was at court yesterday where it was agreed between prosecution and defence teams he had made £774,621 out of criminal conduct – which included the security fraud scam and unpaid taxes.
His assets amounted to £160,596 – which he must hand over within six months or face a further two years in jail.
Prosecutor Robert Adams told Newcastle Crown Court: “Out of the confiscated sum we ask the court to order compensation to the victims in this case.
“The total is £121,481 and I hand in a schedule giving the break down of the 15 identified victims with the individual compensation figures attached.”
Mr Recorder Dobbin made the order in the agreed sums and made Hepple the subject of Serious Crime Prevention order, with a financial reporting order in a bid to ensure he commits no similar crimes.
At a hearing last year the court was told that when the conman had customers’ card details to pay for overpriced products, he would carry on helping himself to cash from accounts.
Hepple, of Blackcap Close, Washington, had admitted conspiracy to defraud 15 victims.
The court heard some had been charged as much as £1,500 for a simple smoke alarm.
An 88-year-old customer from Sunderland was repeatedly charged for the same work, which had been overpriced in the first place.
A 76-year-old widowed stroke victim, from County Durham, ended up £18,986 out of pocket after she initially paid for overpriced work and transactions continued to be taken out of her account after her bill was paid.
Pensioners in Scotland and the south of England were also caught up in the scam.
The court heard the expert who reviewed the company’s work on behalf of the police said the firm was a “disgrace to the security industry”.
Mr Adams said: “The case is Hepple exploited elderly and vulnerable customers by means of his alarm business Night and Day.
“He persuaded them to purchase unnecessarily sophisticated and expensive alarm systems and products which were not needed or suitable.
“It is accepted there were customers of the business who were not defrauded, it is no longer the prosecution case this business was set up solely to defraud vulnerable people.”
Christopher Knox, defending Hepple, said at the last hearing: “He is ruined by this. He will emerge from prison without anything.”