VICTIMS of a callous cowboy builder from Bidford who conned elderly people out of more than £400,000 are to get two-thirds of their money back, thanks to the work of police financial investigators.
Sydney Fletcher had been jailed for nine years at Warwick Crown Court in 2012 for nine offences of defrauding elderly and vulnerable people in south Warwickshire, Redditch and Walsall.
But Fletcher of Friday Furlong, Bidford, at the time, who was also given nine months for benefit frauds, later had his sentence reduced to seven years by the Court of Appeal.
And amazingly the 42-year-old was let out of prison for the day to return to the crown court for a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act following lengthy enquiries by Warwickshire Police financial investigators.
Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said it had been agreed that Fletcher’s benefit from his criminal activity was nearly £750,000.
That was based on around £400,000 he had got from his cowboy building cons, £51,000 he obtained from his benefit frauds and other cash which had gone through his bank accounts.
The financial investigation established that he had available assets of £275,000 including just over £4,000 seized from him and held by the police when he was originally arrested in 2012.
Judge Alan Parker ordered the cash to be relinquished immediately, and that Fletcher should pay the balance of £270,840 within six months or face an additional three years in prison in default.
Mr Amarasinghe asked for £274,519 of the money, which represents 68 per cent of what they lost, to be used to pay compensation to Fletcher’s victims, which the judge agreed.
At the original hearing Mr Amarasinghe said the frauds involved nine elderly or vulnerable people living in Stratford, Evesham, Alcester, Bidford, Walsall and near Redditch, who were conned into handing over a total of £404,605 to Fletcher.
“He has preyed on them. They were elderly or vulnerable; some were in very poor health, and one has since died.”
Some work was never done, while work which was carried out was only partly done or done to a very poor standard.
Investigations involving the police and Trading Standards officers began in late 2009 but Fletcher, who had given a series of false business addresses, was not arrested until February 2012.