'Pitiless' Cardiff builders given jail sentences
Rogue builders who scammed older people out of over £70,000 have been given jail terms at Newport Crown Court.
Tom Connors, 23, Richard McCarthy, 21, Ben Jones, 23, and Keith Palmer, 21, all from Cardiff, pleaded guilty to 13 charges of conspiracy to defraud.
Connors was jailed for 38 months, McCarthy for 24 months. Jones and Palmer's sentences of 11 months each were suspended for two years.
They had carried out overpriced, shoddy and unnecessary work, the court heard.
Judge Tom Crowther QC said they were pitiless to the point of being vicious.
The court heard the gang targeted vulnerable and elderly people across south Wales, operating under a number of different business names, though the main one was Bellway Paving.
The company was exposed by the BBC Wales consumer affairs programme, X-Ray, two years ago.
At the sentencing on Friday, the court was told they had scammed 14 home owners. The youngest was 61, the oldest one was 98.
Their victims lost more than £70,000 between them on grossly overpriced sub-standard and often simply unnecessary driveway work and home repairs and, in some cases, the gang were aggressive and menacing, the court heard.
The effort to catch them - the biggest of its kind in Wales - was called Operation Cosgrove.
Acting Insp Jamie Holcombe from South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit said the investigation brought together two police forces and eight local authorities as well as the National Trading Standards Scambusters Regional Investigation Team for Wales.
He explained that the money paid out by many of the victims represented their life savings.
Age Cymru's campaigns co-ordinator Gerry Keighley said: "The case illustrates the pressing need for greater protection for older and vulnerable people against criminal gangs who prey on them.
"We need to stop that first knock on the door that leads to vulnerable people falling into their traps which is why we are campaigning for more No Cold Calling Zones across Wales."
Scambusters' investigations team leader Andrew Bertie said people should do their research before engaging the services of traders.
"Ensure you make full use of the 14-day cooling-off period to consider your decision properly before proceeding and always get written quotations," he said.
McCarthy had an extra month added on to his sentence for failing to appear at an earlier hearing.