The ringleader of a team of bogus builders who conned an elderly Lewisham man out of £94,000 has been jailed for five years.
Patrick O’Driscoll, 40, of Potters Bar, targeted elderly men living alone with accomplices Damien Foley, 48, of Finchley, and 28-year-old Danny Hargreen, of Hertfordshire, and would operate under the names ‘Steve’ and ‘Tony’.
O’Driscoll and a fourth man door-stepped the Lewisham victim, who had a leaky roof and agreed to pay the men to repair it.
The rogue traders then convinced the 69-year-old man that he needed improvements to his home including a replacement door and re-plastering work, all of which was valued at £5,000 but he was told it would cost £35,000.
The group of men then inundated the victim with around 300 phone calls in just three months and even called late into the night.
Many of them were social calls intended to groom and gain the trust of the victim before they escalated the charge to £101,600.
The elderly man was visited by various men who collected payments from him totalling £94,000 which included his life savings.
Bank staff concerned by loan applications made by the victim and the unusual transactions contacted police who began an investigation.
When Haygreen attended the victim’s property to collect the next payment of £7,000, he found officers waiting to arrest him.
O’Driscoll and Foley were subsequently arrested at their home addresses.
The victim said in a statement: “I feel the people who did this to me are the story of people that should be put away for a long time.
“I think that if police had not got involved they would not have stopped demanding money from me,” he added.
O’Driscoll pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud last month.
Foley was given a 19-month jail term and Hargreen was sentenced to a nine-month suspended sentence and 90 hours unpaid work.
London Crime Squad investigating officer Detective Inspector Rob Fisher said: “This group handpicked victims who lived alone and had a trusting nature. Having convinced them that they needed work done, the group besieged the victims with phone calls, both to earn their trust and land them with increasingly extortionate debts.
"Their control over their victims was deeply disturbing. When we intervened, the victim in Lewisham was considering signing over the deeds to his house in order to settle the bill. He had also been convinced not to talk to anyone else about the supposed building work. The men had instructed him to only talk on the phone if the caller identified themselves as 'Bravo One', after which he had to identify himself as 'Bravo Two'.
"The victims feared debt and they feared these men, who were aggressive and unrelenting in their pursuit of cash. It will be a long time, if ever, that the victims' faith in others is restored but I hope that the conviction and sentencing of this unscrupulous group will at least help them begin to feel safer."
A financial investigation is also under way.
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