Four men jailed for defrauding the frail and elderly
Four men were given jail sentences on 27 February for a total of nearly 10 years years at Teesside Crown Court, for repeatedly defrauding elderly and vulnerable victims - some with dementia - over shoddy, over-priced and unnecessary property repairs and for laundering proceeds of almost £340,000
The case represents the worst example of repeat victimisation ever encountered by North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards, which investigated and prosecuted the case.
One victim, a vulnerable male with ill-health from the Malton area, was defrauded of £250,000 over an eight year period.
The investigation also included the following victims:
- A male in his 70’s from the York area with mental health difficulties, who was defrauded of £12,200.
- A woman in her 80’s with dementia from the Bridlington area, who was defrauded of £18,532.
- A couple in their 80’s and 90’s from the Bridlington area (where the male has dementia and his wife was his sole carer at the time), who were defrauded of £26,638; £22,100 of which was taken in just an eight week period.
A further 12 victims were also defrauded of a total of £30,772.
Consumer Minister Jenny Willott said:
“The sentences handed down today send out a clear message to those looking to break the law – we will catch you and bring you to justice.
“Reporting unscrupulous traders to the authorities is vital to catching rogues like these. Anyone with concerns about possible conmen should ring the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. Trading Standards can then investigate claims against rogue businesses, take court action if necessary and make sure consumers get a fair deal.”
The men, Monty David Croke, 46, of Pickering; his two sons, Monty Croke Jr, 26, and Billy Croke, 23, both of Knareborough; and James Paul Coverdale, 35, of Pickering; pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud householders in relation to shoddy, over-priced and unnecessary property repairs.
Monty David Croke was jailed for five years; Monty Croke Jnr for two and a half years, Billy Croke for 12 months and James Paul Coverdale for 15 months, suspended for two years.
Sentencing the men, His Honour Judge Briggs said: “The elderly and vulnerable are a growing part of our community, and frequently have valuable assets which are attractive to the ruthless and greedy.
“The wrong-doing (in this case) spanned a considerable period of time”. The judge said that Monty David Croke had effectively stripped the Malton victim of his available assets and had “played him in a cunning and devious way”.
He added: "No-one can fail to have noticed the very great care the local trading standards department have devoted to this, on the face of it, very difficult case. I think there ought to be a public acknowledgement of the job they have done.
"The other rather refreshing feature of it is it's good to know that out in the community there are a numbers of people who keep their eyes open."
Following the sentencing hearing County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Trading Standards said: “We are sadly getting used to investigating cases of this nature in trading standards. But this case has been shocking and distressing, even to those of us who are hardened to this type of appalling and heartless crime.”
“That offenders such as these can undertake the ruthless exploitation of vulnerable adults in this way, often for prolonged periods, is disgusting and abhorrent. They should be aware that we are utterly committed to bringing them to justice and using all available tools to target their behaviour.”
“Whilst this case should act as a warning to all like-minded offenders of the efforts we will go to, I have to repeat our plea again to all those in the community who can help us with our fight against doorstep crime. This case resulted from the actions of concerned carers and family members of the victims. The public must not under-estimate the vital role they can play in reporting such offending and doorstep callers to us immediately.”
“We would sincerely like to thank the victims in this case for their courage in supporting this prosecution and for helping us to protect others from these ruthless individuals.”
North Yorkshire Trading Standards commenced the investigation in October 2012, following a safeguarding alert in relation to the Malton victim. He was defrauded by Monty David Croke who befriended him in relation to investments in the alleged development of holiday cottages. He had stated: “I was completely taken in. Monty David Croke befriended me and he then betrayed my friendship. It was all one big lie.”
“I hope this case serves as a warning to others about the dangers of doorstep callers and that it helps prevent others from being defrauded in the way I have been.”
His family members stated: “It is difficult to comprehend the callousness of the people who inveigle their way into the lives of vulnerable people, groom them and often leave them in dire financial difficulties. It was only the vigilance of our brother’s carer that uncovered this matter and brought it to the attention of the authorities. Our family is indebted to her for all her care and kindness.
“The efforts of North Yorkshire Trading Standards and the effectiveness of a multi-agency approach to this type of crime must also be applauded. The officers involved have shown great sensitivity and care towards our brother throughout the process and have used all the tools available to them to bring this serious matter before the court.”
Investigations into the offender’s bank accounts revealed the extent of the fraud and the identity of other victims.
Despite being charged with such serious offences in May 2013, the three Crokes went on to defraud a further victim, a female in her 70’s from the York area, in August and September 2013. They admitted this fraud and asked the court to take the offence into consideration for sentencing purposes. They also admitted three counts of contempt of court after breaching Proceeds of Crime Restraint Orders freezing their assets.
The daughters of the York victim added: “We are very grateful to North Yorkshire Trading Standards for bringing these offenders to justice and ensuring that elderly, frail and vulnerable members of our community are protected from these villains”.
The daughter and son of one of the Bridlington victims said: “We feel the actions of the fraudsters were despicable towards very vulnerable people who have worked extremely hard over a lifetime, not only to pay their way, but to save money for their old age care. That future support has been taken away from them by these frauds.
“We would like this to be in the public domain to warn others to be vigilant toward possible fraudsters and to urge them to contact trading standards or the police if they are suspicious of anyone's activities.
“Finally, we would like to thank North Yorkshire Trading Standards for their superb work in this investigation and their thoughtful treatment of the vulnerable people and their families.”
Note to editors:
Doorstep callers should be reported to trading standards through the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06. For immediate assistance, call the police on 101 or, in urgent cases, on 999.
Trading Standards advice remains consistent: consumers should never deal with doorstep callers. If you believe you require property maintenance work, try and find a trader who can be recommended to you by a friend, neighbour or family member who has used them before and was happy with the quality and price of the work. Failing that, obtain quotes from at least three local traders, and take time out to think about the quotes and the work, before deciding to go ahead.
All forms of abuse against vulnerable adults can also be reported to North Yorkshire County Council Health and Adult Services on 0845 034 9410, or outside office hours on 0845 034 9417.
Materials available for release:
PNC photos of the offenders.
- Copies of surveillance footage of Monty Croke Jr and Billy Croke, recorded during the investigation.
- Copies of helicopter footage showing the house built by Monty David Croke with the Malton victim’s money.
Pictures of: Monty David Croke; Monty Croke Jnr; Billy Croke
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Press contact: Ruth Andrews, Head of Investigations and Safeguarding, North Yorkshire Trading Standards, 01609 534855 / 07816 813418
Graham Venn, Assistant Director (Trading Standards) 01609-534824
Executive member: County Councillor Chris Metcalfe (Con) 01937 832501
DATE: 27 February 2014