A fraudster who convinced a pensioner to create a new will leaving his £540,000 house to one of his suspected associates has been jailed for five years and three months.
Robert Vincent, 47 (12.12.69) of Sandpiper Way, Orpington, appeared at Wood Green Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday, 3 August after he pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud by false representation.
Detectives from the Met’s Fraud and Linked Crime Online (Falcon) Unit began an investigation in June 2017 after a report from Bromley Trading Standards.
Officers visited the victim’s address in Haringey and discovered that, near to Christmas 2016, he had been approached by a man calling himself Terry Griffiths who had told him his roof needed to be replaced.
A police investigation revealed that Terry Griffiths was in fact Robert Vincent, who told the victim work was needed on the entire roof to fix a leak.
The 68-year-old victim handed over cash and cheques totalling £14,000 to Vincent in a two-month period after Christmas.
In March, he told him that he could not afford to pay for the repairs. Vincent suggested he could leave his house to him in his will to cover the cost.
The victim reluctantly agreed to do this and visited a solicitor who drafted a new will for him naming Terry Griffiths as the sole receiver.
However, Vincent then asked the victim to change the name to someone who police believe was one of his associates.
On Monday, 5 June, the victim received a phone call from Bromley Trading Standards in relation to another building scam that he had almost been the victim of in June 2016.
Whilst on the phone, he mentioned that he was having building work done and the Trading Standards Officer told him she would send someone round to ensure everything was in order. When the officer attended the address, he found that no work appeared to have been carried out. Trading Standards then informed police.
Vincent was arrested on Wednesday, 7 June after he was seen exiting the victim’s property. In his phone, he had the victim’s telephone number.
The man who had been named on the will was interviewed by police but he denied any knowledge of the fraud and said he did not know Vincent.
Vincent was charged with one count of Fraud by False Representation on Thursday, 8 June and appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ on the same day.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of Fraud by False Representation at Wood Green Crown Court on Thursday, 20 July.
Detective Constable Alex Falconer, of the Met’s Falcon unit, said: “This was a deceitful crime in which Vincent tricked an elderly man into changing his will after charging him £14,000 for non-existent repairs to his roof.
“A swift police investigation established that Vincent had been using a pseudonym in his dealings with the victim and provided a name of his suspected associate.
“As a result of this conviction the fraudulent will has been destroyed. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”
Tips for protecting yourself from bogus tradesman fraud include:
- Always ask for identification before letting anyone you don't know into your house.
- Check credentials, including a permanent business address and landline telephone number. The mobile phone numbers given on business cards are often pay-as-you-go numbers which are virtually impossible to trace.
- Take control by asking the questions. Ask for references from previous customers or to see examples of their work.
- Don’t sign on the spot – shop around. Get at least three written quotes to make sure you’re not being ripped off.
- If in any doubt, ask the person to leave or call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. (Consumer Direct works in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities).
- If you’re suspicious, why not ask the salesman if you can take their photograph – on your mobile phone, for example? If the person is legitimate, they probably won’t mind.