Men behind bars for targeting vulnerable victims

23 Jan 2017 15:00 PM

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Three men have today been sentenced for fraud offences after targeting vulnerable people across the North East.

Lee Davidson, aged 30, of Chepstow Walk, was convicted of convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud by false representation and sentenced to five years.

Phillip Robert Orton, aged 54, of Windemere Road, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud by false representation and sentenced to  3 years 9 months.

Scott Greathead, aged 24, of Southburn Terrace, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud by false representation and sentenced to 2 years 6 months.

Michael Anthony Gales aged 27, of Brenda Road, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud by false representation but failed to appear. There is a warrant our for his arrest and will be sentenced at a later date.

Pic cap Top L-R Scott Greathead, Lee Davidson. Bottom L-R Michael Gales, Philip Orton

One victim, Joan Barnett, 87, subsequently died following an incident in Newlands Avenue, Tunstall in Sunderland when she suffered injuries after being pushed in her home by an offender who had entered her address.

William Levi Gales, aged 44, of Borrowdale Street, was also charged with manslaughter but he has since died.

Statement DI Dave English

Detective Inspector Dave English led the investigation and has praised the bravery of the victims and families and warns that offenders will be put before the courts.

DI English said: "This has been a tragic case for all involved. A woman has lost her life and the other victims have lost thousands of pounds.

"It has been utterly heartbreaking for the family and friends of Joan Barnett and all the other victims. I'm sure many people will empathise with their loss. All families involved have remained dignified throughout this investigation and their contribution and support has been invaluable.

"Preying on vulnerable and elderly people is sickening. These men targeted residents across the North East, using persuasive and aggressive techniques to urge their victims to pay them money for work that had not been carried out. These men were finding any excuse to get into victims' houses and in the case of Joan Barnett, this is what subsequently led to her death after she was pushed to the floor and left to suffer for hours.

"In another case, they actually drove the victim to the bank to withdraw cash. This is just one of the measures these criminals will go to. They have travelled all around the North East taking advantage of vulnerable people for their own financial gain.

"I would urge anyone to be mindful of anyone who comes to your door asking for money, offering to carry out work or finding any reason to gain access to your house. Any genuine caller or salesperson will be happy to show you ID and return at a later date once you have been able to check their authenticity.

"We are absolutely committed to stopping these criminals and we will work tirelessly to protect those most vulnerable in our communities. Victims are our absolute priority and we will continue to work closely with them to help prevent repeat incidents and take action on those who commit these offences.

"These men preyed on vulnerable people and there may be other victims out there who may feel too embarrassed to come forward or haven't realised they have been targeted. I would urge anyone who recognises these men and belive may have fallen victim to them should contact police."

Statement from family member of one of the victims

"After the events of October 2014, I would describe the impact on my father as being, in my opinion, catastrophic. Up until he was targeted by these men, he was a proud, independent and hardworking man. It was clear that he had kept the extent of this crime a secret from his family until it was discovered. I feel that this was because he is a trusting man and this has been taken from him by these criminals, leaving him embarrassed and upset. His health has declined dramatically. He became isolated in his own home as he stopped answering the phone and didn't leave the house. It is my opinion that the actions of these criminals have contributed to his health issues and decline in mental health.This whole incident has devastated the life of my father and our whole family."

Statement from neighbour of Joan Barnett

"Joan was a strong and independent woman as well as kind and generous. I had known Joan for about 15 years and had become and unofficial grandparent to my children. She loved children and she would always give them presents for Christmases and birthdays. After the incident in August 2014, we would visit her in hospital but she seemed to have lost all interest in life. She was no longer the chatty, happy person I had come to know over the years. Joan's death was upsetting and shocking to the whole of our community so we all came together to give her the funeral she deserved. This has had a huge impact on us all in the community. "