MEMBERS of an organised crime group who conned elderly Surrey residents out of tens of thousands of pounds have been sentenced to a total of eight years in prison.
Paul Sanderson, 41, of Sarel Way, Horley, Emma Stevenson, 33, of Brook Road, Merstham, Albert Eastwood, 39, of Denton Close, Redhill, John Eastwood, 42, of Ermyn Close, Leatherhead, and a 17-year-old boy, were sentenced at Guildford Crown Court today, Friday.
Surrey Police launched an investigation in February 2010 following a report from a family member of an elderly Reigate man who had paid out £36,000 in five cheques for building work at his property. The people involved had poorly painted one layer of white paint across his ceiling but had failed to return to carry out any further work. The victim passed away shortly after the matter was reported to the police.
Surrey County Council's Trading Standards officers, Surrey Police's Cross Border Investigation Team and Reigate Safer Neighbourhood Team together reviewed any similar incidents and made enquiries to identify those responsible. The cheques were traced to the accounts of members of the Sanderson family in Merstham. Further investigation in to their accounts led officers to four other victims in Surrey, one victim in Kent and another victim in Coulsdon.
David Sanderson, his wife Emma Stevenson and brother Paul Sanderson were arrested in July 2011 following the execution of warrants at their home addresses in Brook Road, Merstham, and Sarel Way, Horley.
Forensic enquiries were made into property which had been left in one of the victim's lofts which led to the arrest of brothers Albert Eastwood and John Eastwood in September 2011. The 17-year-old boy was arrested in October 2011. The three were later positively identified by one of the victims.
Albert Eastwood was sentenced to three-and-a-half years and John Eastwood was sentenced to two years after they both admitted one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Paul Sanderson was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation following a trial in January and was today handed an 18-month jail term. The 17-year-old was sentenced to a year in a Young Offenders Institute. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Emma Stevenson was given a nine-month prison term suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 140 hours unpaid work. She had previously admitted one charge of converting criminal property.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a sixth defendant – David Sanderson, 39, of Brook Road, Merstham – who failed to appear in court after previously pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to convert criminal property.
Detectives are appealing for any sightings of him and anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact Surrey Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Detective Constable Paul Constable, of Surrey Police's Cross Border Investigation Team, said: "These heartless individuals deliberately targeted elderly residents, charging them well over the odds for work they never intended to complete.
"Unfortunately the initial victim passed away in the early stages of the investigation and it is thanks to the tenacity of Trading Standards officers and the work of Inspector Richard Haycock and his officers in Reigate and Banstead Safer Neighbourhood Team that we were able to bring this prosecution.
"I hope the sentence handed to these offenders sends a message that the police and courts will not tolerate those who exploit other people's vulnerabilities for their own gain."
Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council's cabinet member for community safety, said: "This gang of organised criminals are where they belong, behind bars. To first gain the trust of an elderly person and then con them out of £36,000 in return for painting one coat of paint on a ceiling shows an abhorrent lack of humanity. I'm pleased we could play a part in catching these crooks.
"Our advice is never deal with cold calling doorstep traders. If you need a tradesperson to carry out work, visit http://www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk/ where you can find people vetted and approved by trading standards."