POLICE are today returning thousands of pounds to the elderly victim of a pair of conmen who have been jailed for their cruel deception.
James Dolan, a 27-year-old man from Haswell and Jonathan Keogh, aged 29 and from Easington, had targeted the victim at her home in Chester-le-Street last summer and quoted her an inflated price for work to her guttering.
After carrying out some basic work they then told the lady her roof needed urgent repairs, and said she would need to obtain further cash from the bank.
The next day they picked her up in a van and ordered her to take out £1,800 from the bank. After collecting this money, the thieves then told her she would need to hand over her bank card and security number as more work was needed.
They then drove to a cash machine where she was forced to withdraw another £250, the conmen then drive off and left the victim, who was in her eighties and in poor health, to walk home.
Armed with her card they helped themselves to further money from her account and persuaded her to make out a cheque for a further sum. Dolan used a large amount of this to pay off an existing debt and also spent more than £600 on the roulette wheel at a bookmakers.
Two days later the victim, shaken and upset visited her bank and asked for help, informing staff that she believed she had fallen for a scam.
The police were informed and enquiries made by local officers led them to Dolan and Keogh, who were duly arrested.
The victim’s bank managed to stop cheques to the value of £4,300 being cashed which still left the pensioner £4,700 out of pocket. Investigators from the force’s economic crime team then started proceedings to recover this money under the Proceeds of Crime legislation and a hearing was scheduled to take place on Friday last week.
However, an agreement was reached with the offenders’ solicitors for them to pay back the outstanding sum without the need for an order to be made by the court.
And today financial investigators John Foreman and Karen Carver, from the force’s economic crime team which is based at Chester-le-Street will visit the victim with the cheque for £4,700 and accompany her to the bank, where the money will go safely back into her account.
They also helped arrange for an alarm chime and door chain to be fitted at the lady’s house to provide an increased sense of security.
In July this year Dolan and Keogh appeared at Durham Crown Court and pleaded guilty to the offence.
Keogh was handed an 18-month sentence and Dolan received a 12-month term.
“Even by the usual standards of such conmen, Dolan and Keogh were despicable. They took the victim for every penny they could get and when interviewed, denied their involvement for as long as they could,” said John Foreman.
“Normally we would go down the path of requesting a Proceeds of Crime order from the court but there is a risk that even when granted, the defendants could ask to stretch out the repayments over several months. By reaching this agreement we have got the money back in one go and I am really pleased we can hand it over today so the victim is no longer out of pocket.”