The leader of a ruthless gang of rogue traders is behind bars today for what investigators say is the worst case of “repeat victimisation” they had ever seen.
One vulnerable victim from Norton had an astonishing £250,000 taken from him by crooked builder Monty Croke, of Pickering, who returned to his home time and again over eight years.
The man said last week: “I was completely taken in. He befriended me and he then betrayed my friendship. It was all one big lie.”
Croke, 46, his sons Monty jnr, 26, and Billy, 23, and friend James Coverdale, 36, were given jail sentences after they admitted fraud conspiracies and money laundering.
Teesside Crown Court heard from investigators with North Yorkshire Trading Standards that the travelling gang left a trail of devastated victims – mostly elderly, infirm or disabled – across the north of England.
The court heard how the man from Norton lost his life-savings after being befriended by crooked Croke – described by the judge as “devious, persuasive and ruthless in the pursuit of money”.
Judge Tony Briggs said the father-of-three had preyed upon the retired businessman’s loneliness and need for friendship, and treated him as a cash cow.
The man’s family said after the case: “It is difficult to comprehend the callousness of the people who inveigle their way into the lives of vulnerable people.
Monty Croke, who has listed addresses of Field Drive, Pickering, and The Laurels, Lendales Lane, Pickering, was locked up for five years.
Monty jnr and Billy Croke, both of Thistle Hill Traveller’s Site, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, got two-and-a-half years and 12 months respectively.
Coverdale, of Ings Garth, Pickering, was given a 15-month sentence, suspended for two years, with drug treatment and 12 months’ supervision.
At earlier hearings, they pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud householders in relation to shoddy, over-priced and unnecessary property repairs.
Judge Briggs told the gang: “The elderly and vulnerable form a growing part of our community and they frequently have valuable assets which are attractive to the ruthless and greedy, who are only too willing to take advantage of their incapacity.
“When they are targeted and their trust is abused by people who either overcharge them, do unnecessary work, do incompetent work or dishonestly deprive them of money, very considerable hardship and upset is caused.
“They suffer, in particular, when they are fleeced for virtually all they have.”