‘Dirty’ traveler moonlighting as roofer took blind man to post office to clear accident
A “despicable” serial offender who admitted to defrauding two vulnerable elderly couples after “cold calling” them home has been sentenced to two years in prison.
Gerald Johnston, of Carlton Travelers Site, Carlton, near Goole, told his two groups of victims in Selby and Doncaster that they needed roofing work in October 2019 and urged them to withdraw cash each time to banks to pay their inflated bills.
He pleaded guilty to misrepresentation fraud and deceptive practice and was convicted on Friday July 2 by York Crown Court following an investigation involving North Yorkshire Trade Standards.
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In addition to being jailed for two years, Johnston was banned from working on any property in the country for the next five years.
He had previously been prosecuted for similar offenses by the North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards in October 2017 and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Two days after the conditional sentence expired, Johnston cold called a vulnerable couple in their 60s in the Selby area.
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He spoke to the man of the house, who was blind and has since passed away, and told him that work was needed on his roof. The man, who explained to Johnston that he could not see the condition of the roof, accepted the work. A price of £ 250 was mentioned.
While working on the roof, Johnston then claimed he found other issues and said the price would be £ 500.
Upon learning that the work was completed, the victim handed over some cash and was then driven by Johnston to the village post office to withdraw additional money.
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This act helped secure his downfall, as Johnston was identified from CCTV footage – recovered at the post office – by trade standards officers who had been involved in the investigation of his previous violation.
The roofing works were examined by an expert appointed by the commercial standards. He concluded that the work on the chimney was so poor that the chimney would need to be partially rebuilt and that the work undertaken was “unnecessary and unjustified”.
A second vulnerable couple, also 70 years old and from the Doncaster area, were targeted the same week by Johnston and said work was needed on their roof. The couple paid Johnston £ 200-250 in cash on that first day.
The next day Johnston returned and told them that more work was needed. Although they expected a bill of around £ 600, the final bill was £ 1,380. Johnston then led the old man to the bank to withdraw the money.
Once again, the couple’s house has been examined by an expert. He concluded that the works were “inappropriate, of inferior quality, unsuitable for use and considerably overloaded”.
During Johnston’s conviction, HHJ Hickey brought up a victim’s belief that Johnston was a ‘real guy’ and told him ‘you were nothing of the sort’.
He added that once Johnston knew a victim was blind, he could have walked away, but chose to continue with the offense.
The vulnerability of the Doncaster couple was also an aggravating factor in the offense, following Johnston’s modus operandi of targeting these victims.
Johnston also received a five-year criminal conduct order, prohibiting him from undertaking roof or property repairs anywhere in the UK. He was also banned from driving for three years and will now be subject to forfeiture proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The two couples defrauded in the affair were keen to speak after the affair and send messages to others who may be vulnerable to such offenses.
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The widow of Selby’s victim said: “What this man did was despicable. My husband was vulnerable because he was blind and trusted him and believed him. I am also disabled.
“When I look back I know my husband wasn’t stupid, so it just shows you what can happen if you deal with home callers. I don’t want that to happen to other people. husband has since passed away so sadly that he did not “I do not live for justice. He felt ashamed, betrayed and so disappointed. “
The Doncaster couple added: “I want to tell the public that people need to be aware of this type of offense. You need to bring in someone recommended to you, a qualified builder rather than dealing with someone who shows up at your doorstep.
“We trusted him, he looked so happy. He asked us if we were happy with the job, but we couldn’t get up to the roof to check. It really touched us ”.
County Councilor Andrew Lee said: ‘There has been a lot of publicity about the scams that have taken place during the Covid 19 closures, including home crimes.
“This case has been delayed due to the impact of Covid on the justice system, like a number of others, but all like-minded violators should take this as a warning that our multi-agency backup team is absolutely determined to face this problem, type of behavior, containment or not, and justice will be served for the victims.