Sentences increased for men who defrauded the frail and elderly
North Yorkshire County Council has welcomed today’s judgement by the Court of Appeal which has found that the sentences handed to a family of fraudsters who preyed on the elderly were unduly lenient.
Monty David Croke and his son Monty Croke, had their prison sentences increased by a total of 4 years. Billy Croke was told his sentence had been unduly lenient but it was not increased as he has already completed his term of imprisonment. The case was referred to the Court by Solicitor General Oliver Heald.
The men were gaoled last February by Teesside Crown Court for repeatedly defrauding elderly and vulnerable victims - some with dementia – in relation to 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.
The sentences were today raised by the Court of Appeal from 5 to 7 and-a-half years for Monty David Croke and from 30 months to 4 years for Monty Croke. Billy Croke’s sentence was unduly lenient but was not increased.
Speaking after today’s hearing, Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC MP said: “This was a terrible case of elderly and vulnerable people being duped into accepting that repairs were needed on their homes, repairs that were entirely unnecessary and in fact the work that these fraudsters did on the homes of the victims actually made the state of the homes worse.
“Older people who live alone are particularly vulnerable; they deserve our respect and should feel safe in society and in their own homes. The increase in today’s sentences sends out a clear message that this type of offence will be dealt with severely.”
County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Trading Standards said: “We welcome wholeheartedly the increase of the sentences by the Court of Appeal. This case was shocking and distressing for all involved, even to those of our officers who have become more 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. The increase of sentencing today shows that as a society we are determined that such ruthless fraudsters will be suitably punished.
“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.”
Monty David Croke ran a business in North Yorkshire carrying out domestic building works and home repairs. His two sons, Monty and Billy, worked for him until Monty set up his own firm which was involved in the same trade.
They would send out flyers or cold call potential customers in the hope of persuading them to agree to having work done. Not all customers were defrauded but some were pressured into agreeing to have work done; the work that was carried out was mostly unnecessary, of a poor standard and overcharged. The victims, deliberately targeted because of their age and vulnerable nature, were deceived into parting with substantial sums of money and the amounts on the cheques used to pay for the work were falsified.
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.
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:
The two conspiracy counts covered the offenders’ dishonest dealings with all their victims. There were four principal victims, although North Yorkshire trading standards also received complaints concerning other victims who were also defrauded during an 8 year period.
In February they were sentenced before HHJ Briggs at the Crown Court in Teeside as follows:
Monty David Croke received 5 years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud; 5 years imprisonment (concurrent) for converting criminal property; 6 months imprisonment (concurrent) for contempt of court and 12 weeks imprisonment (concurrent) for breaching a suspended sentence.
Monty Croke received 30 months imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud; 30 months imprisonment (concurrent) for converting criminal property and 3 months imprisonment (concurrent) for contempt of court.
Billy Croke received 12 imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud; 12 months imprisonment (concurrent) for converting criminal property and 3 months imprisonment (concurrent) for contempt of court.
A co-conspirator (not part of this hearing) James Coverdale, received 15 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years for conspiracy to defraud; and 15 months imprisonment (concurrent) suspended for 2 years for converting criminal property and entering into an arrangement to facilitate the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property.
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.
Pictures of: Monty David Croke; Monty Croke Jnr; Billy Croke availble on request.
County Hall, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL7 8AD
Tel: 01609 532206 01609 532448
DATE: 16 May 2014