£60,000-con bogus gardener preyed on elderly Sunderland couple

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A rogue fraudster who preyed upon the elderly and charged an 83-year-old man £950 after carrying out shoddy work on his garden has been jailed.

Mark Wild, 31, turned up at Peter Elliott-West’s home in Sunderland unannounced on May 11 this year and told him he would tidy up the 83-year-old’s garden by trimming hedges and laying high-quality gravel.

But instead of carrying out the work to a high standard Wild left his victim and his 82-year-old wife with a hefty bill for an unfinished job.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that Wild even asked to borrow bin liners from the elderly man and used them as underlay for the gravel.

Neil Pallister prosecuting said: “The defendant was known to the couple and had been turning up to the address unannounced for about two or three years and carrying out gardening work, charging them around £50 to £90 a time.

“Mr Elliott-West agreed the £950 fee as he believed there had to be a lot of work done on the garden, but did think it was very expensive.

“However, he felt he needed help with the garden as he and his wife were too old to maintain it themselves.”

Mr Pallister said that because of the high price of the job, the victim believed it would take around two days to complete but was shocked to find Wild had finished the shoddy job in the space of two hours.

When the job was complete the couple were not happy and felt the finished garden was of very poor quality.

Mr Pallister said: “The defendant had asked to borrow bin liners from the couple and Mr Elliott-West saw that they had been used as underlay for the gravel.

“Although Mr Elliott-West was not happy with the work he felt obliged to pay the defendant the full amount as they had an agreement.

“He describes himself as a very old fashioned man who trusts people and so went to the bank to withdraw the money.”

While her husband was on his way to the bank, his wife rang the police after looking at the bill and realising they were being overcharged.

Wild was arrested before he could take the money from the couple.

Father-of-four Wild, of Dowsey Road, Sherburn Village – who in 2012 conned a vulnerable 80-year-old man out of £61,700 and more recently fleeced an 83-year-old lady out of £740 for gardening work in September 2014 - pleaded guilty to fraud at a previous hearing.

Barry Robson defending said: “I have been put in an awkward position as Mr Wild clearly hasn’t learnt his lesson from his previous convictions for the same offence.

“This is a man who is not rotten to the core and has good sides to him. He has very good references from the headmaster of his children’s school and the manager of a local football team he helps out at, they both speak very highly of him.”

Sentencing Wild to 18 months in prison Judge Edward Bindloss said the fraudster had been fleecing the old and the vulnerable for years and that the couple were upset at the low quality level of the work.

He said: “The couple were vulnerable because of their age and I believe you targeted them over a period of years and were waiting for pay day to come.

“Mr Elliott-West say’s he is an old fashioned man who seeks out the good nature in people and felt that he had an agreement with you that had to be met.

“They both may have lost trust and confidence since, but thankfully they haven’t lost any cash.”