A team of fraudsters travelled to the North East from Leeds in a bid to con elderly and vulnerable people out of thousands of pounds.
Antony Doherty was behind the plan to overcharge for roofing work which was not required or ever carried out.
The 60-year-old rarely met the victims or visited their homes but regularly called them and put them under pressure to stump up substantial sums of money.
Doherty directed Felix Hanrahan 33, and Sheldon Denton, 26, to pose as workmen, supposedly inspecting roofs and carrying out repair work but in reality were simply causing damage.
Newcastle Crown Court heard on one occasion Doherty targeted a 77-year-old man living alone in a bungalow in the city.
The victim came home on October 22, 2012, to find two men waiting for him, one of which was Denton, and had put ladders up against his roof. It has not been possible to prove who the other man was.
These vulnerable people when they lose trust in others it effects them in a psychological way.Judge Edward Bindloss
He was told the genuine company who had previously worked on his roof had gone bust and that they were there to do an inspection.
Christopher Rose, prosecuting, said: “He was sadly, taken in by this and gave them his phone number.
“He was immediately called by the men’s boss which, the Crown say, was Anhony Doherty.
“Whilst the phone call was taking place Sheldon Denton had gone onto his roof and had literally pushed the entire chimney stack on the right side of the house into his garden before ripping tiles off the roof.”
The victim was told he would need to pay £3,500 for the scaffolding needed to repair the roof but that he would have his money returned at the end of the job.
He was instructed to go to the bank straight away and that they would give him a lift.
The victim was then called repeatedly the next day stating that a further £5,800 in cash was needed before any further work could be carried out.
He arranged to take out a bank loan of £7,500 and by the end of the day a considerable amount of damage had been done to the roof with a large gaping hole left uncovered.
It was only after handing over £5,800 in cash and no one came to his house to work or answered his calls that he realised he had been the victim of a fraud.
The victim wanted the police to catch those involved and agreed to hand over an extra £2,900 which they had demanded in a bid to snare them.
When Denton arrived to collect the cash he was arrested by police.
A second vulnerable victim, from Sunderland, was also easily persuaded to part with significant amounts of money after being targeted by the group.
When two men, Hanrahan and Denton, knocked on his door on October 19, 2012, and asked to do some repairs to his roof he sent them away.
But when they returned the following day to tell him his pipes were leaking into the next door property he was taken to the MetroCentre where the bank was open late to withdraw £2,350 to hand over to the men.
Mr Rose told the court: “They told him they would pay it straight into a safety deposit box they had at the Metrocentre.
“He was contacted again to say they had discovered he needed a new roof and would have to pay a further £6,000 for this up front, albeit that the money would be returned to him.”
There were delays to the work being started and further demands for £2,500 from a woman.
Some of the money which he paid was put into or transferred electronically into the bank account of Jason Lee, 44, who received a sum of £1040 for money being laundered through his account.
The victim received nothing back after paying a total of £13,350 for the work which was not necessary as in the spring of 2012 he had legitimate work done on his roof and it was in perfect condition.
During a third occasion, Doherty, calling himself David, targeted an elderly couple who live in Leeds whose house had been suffering from damp.
He initially said he would need £1000 from them for materials before asking for a further £2,500 after claiming to have found evidence of rodents in the attic.
Doherty then phoned the victim demanding £6,200 to do all of the work. When the victims offered to pay it by cheque, he told them to pay the amount into a bank account.
The bank account belonged to Zona Monaghan, 36, who was paid £300 for her involvement.
Demands for £4,000 as a security bone for a damp blower were made but, by his point, the couple had had enough and demanded a refund.
The couple paid £9,700 in total, which amounted to all of their savings, but no money was ever repaid and no work ever completed.
When interviewed by police, Doherty denied having any involvement in fraudulent activity or being involved in roofing or building work.
Felix Hanrahan and Sheldon Denton declined to answer any questions during interview.
Lee claimed that he had allowed a friend to put money through his account but denied any criminal involvement.
Monaghan said she had been approached by a man who collected scrap to ask whether she would help with his wife transferring some money over from Ireland, given that he did not have a bank account.
She stated she had seen £300 was left in her account and spent it.
Antony Doherty and Felix Hanrahan were convicted after their trial by a jury.
Doherty, of Toft Street, Leeds, was found guilty of three counts of fraud. Hanrahan, of Low Lane, High Leven, Yarm, was found guilty of one count of fraud.
Denton, of Briarmains Road, Birstall, Batley, West Yorkshire, admitted one count of fraud.
He had previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 12 months in March 2013 by Newcastle Crown Court for his involvement with the first victim.
Lee, of Nowell Mount, Leeds, and Monaghan, of Scott Hall Avenue, Buslingthorpe, Leeds, admitted converting criminal property.
Ian Cook, defending Doherty, told the court he has suffered from throat cancer and has not received a custodial sentence for 35 years.
He said: “He acknowledges he is going to receive an immediate sentence.
“He is perhaps less well equipped now then he was 35-years-old when he last received one.
“The impact of this custodial sentence upon him will be significant not only for health issues but he will lose his accommodation as a result of the custodial sentence imposed.
“He’s someone who has demonstrated he can lead a law abiding life and that’s what he wants to get back to.
“He has let himself down and his family down.”
Nigel Edwards, defending Hanrahan, said: “He’s some what of a shattered individual.
“He’s seen the error of his ways. It’s very doubtful he will be before the courts any time soon.”
Graham Parking, defending Lee, told the court: “The problem is he is motivated by personal gain and can’t get around that.
“There is a clear lack of sophistication. He used his own bank account. The electronic transfer would have resulted in him being arrested.
“He accepts that he shouldn’t have done that.”
Judge Edward Bindloss told the defendants: “The group showed no compassion towards their victims.
“Phone calls put significant pressure on victims causing them distress.
“The harm levels here are high.
“These vulnerable people when they lose trust in others it effects them in a psychological way.
“It has the inability to increase their loneliness.”
Judge Bindloss told the court how the first defendant no longer trusts people who knock on his door and avoids answering the telephone.
He said the second victim, who suffers from epilepsy, has experienced his condition worsen.
The couple have had to sell their static caravan to pay for building work and are worried about their son, who is suffering from cancer, moving in with them if his condition worsens before the house is repaired.
Judge Bindloss sentenced Doherty to three years and 10 months in prison.
He sentenced Hanrahan to two years and six months and Denton to 15 months in prison.
Lee was handed nine months in prison suspended for two years with supervision and a thinking skills programme for 60 days.
Monaghan was given an eight month community order with 40 hours unpaid work.