TWO men who cheated a vulnerable man in his early 60s out of thousands of pounds have escaped jail.
One of the men, Andrew Crosby, 38, struck up a friendship with the frail pensioner in October 2012 while washing his windows, and began to borrow money from him as well as overcharging him for menial jobs such as cleaning bins.
Crosby, of Clovelly Road, Hylton Castle, Sunderland, charged as much as £90 each time he visited his victim.
Realising the man was an “easy target”, Crosby then informed some other men, who began visiting the man and demanding money for jobs that had not been given the go-ahead.
Another man, Dennis Middlemas, 49, was employed by these men to collect the money from the vulnerable man at his home in Sunderland.
Middlemas, of Hepburn Grove, Hylton Castle, is the sole carer of his 14-year-old daughter, and the court heard that he did the job to buy her clothes and food.
Katherine Dunn, defending Middlemas, said that he had been paid just £10 each time he collected money, which he immediately passed on.
Judge John Evans said: “A total of about £5,500 was taken, not all by these defendants.
“In essence, it was purported that they were doing work for him.
“It’s clear that in addition excessive bills for window cleaning and wheelie bin cleaning were given.”
The court heard that the victim became concerned about the never-ending bills and contacted the police.
In a victim impact statement, the court heard how the man was clearly “shocked and upset” by what had happened.
While an officer was in attendance at his home, the victim received a phone call from a man calling himself Mickey who said that he was coming over to collect some more money.
Middlemas arrived at the victim’s home and was arrested by police, who uncovered a pre-prepared receipt for £300 with the victim’s name and address on it.
Police also found 12 self-sealed bags holding a total of 4.6g of cocaine in Middlemas’ car.
A similar amount was also found at Middlemas’ home address.
The pair pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal at Newcastle Cown Court yesterday. Middlemas pleaded guilty to the additional charge of possession of a class A drug with intent to supply.
Jamie Adams, defending Crosby, said: “Mr Crosby had a gambling problem which had become an addiction.
“He had got into debt with loan sharks and pay-day lenders. When this defendant expresses remorse, it is genuine remorse.”
Judge John Evans sentenced the pair to nine months, suspended for 24 months each.
Middlemas was also sentenced to an additional six months, suspended for 24 months, for the drugs charge.
Both men were subjected to a supervision order for 12 months and a restraining order which prohibits them from contacting the victim directly or indirectly or going to his address.
They are each required to carry out 280 hours of unpaid work.
Sentencing, he said: “There is no reason why either of you should not restore to the community something that you have been taking out in the course of this offending.”