England

Leicestershire mobility scooter conmen jailed

Shane and Laurence Johnson
Image caption The Johnsons' lawyers said the business was initially legitimate

A father and son who conned vulnerable pensioners into buying mobility aids which were never delivered have each been jailed for 12 months.

Shane Johnson, 54, and Laurence Johnson, 26, left one woman stranded downstairs after disconnecting her stair lift but failing to replace it.

The pair, of Kegworth, Leicestershire, took thousands of pounds from elderly people in the Midlands and Yorkshire.

They admitted 12 charges under the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008.

Nottingham Crown Court heard they put the proceeds towards comfortable homes and luxuries, including a Porsche 911 and a Maserati.

According to trading standards officers, the pair set up the company Nottingham Mobility three years ago.

The business sold a range of mobility products such as scooters, stair lifts and chairs from third party suppliers.

Chemical toilet

An initial investigation discovered that payments of up to £31,000 had been handed over for equipment that never arrived.

Other customers said that Nottingham Mobility had promised to pay off existing finance agreements for mobility scooters as part of their sale agreement, but then failed to do so - leaving them with old as well as new debt.

The victims, from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire, ranged from 56 to 94 years old.

They include great-grandmother May Bell, who agreed to buy a new stair lift for £1,795 when she was visited by Shane Johnson at her Sheffield home in July 2009.

The 86-year-old paid the money up front and an electrician called to disconnect the old equipment.

But no replacement arrived and the pensioner, who suffers from arthritis, as well as hip and joint problems, was stranded downstairs.

For more than five weeks she slept in a recliner chair and had to use a chemical toilet in her lounge.

'Disgraceful behaviour'

Her son Neville Bell, 57, said: "Now my mum is frightened to answer the door. She's frightened to answer the phone.

"To spend five weeks at 86 years old sleeping in a chair because somebody couldn't care a toss whether he fitted her a stair lift or not.

"Luckily, she's come out of the other side of it. But a lot of other people wouldn't."

Lawyers for the pair said the business was set up legitimately but they began to adopt criminal practices when it ran into trouble.

Judge James Sampson told both men their prison sentences were meant as a warning to other unscrupulous traders that "society regards this kind of behaviour as disgraceful".

He said: "Your victims were elderly, stroke victims, polio victims, amputees, the disadvantaged and the disabled.

"They trusted you with advance fees and with advice."

He added: "Neither of you are fit and proper people to be involved in any business involving the vulnerable."

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