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Fraudsters' victim tells of her distress.

Byline: James Johnston And Gareth Lightfoot

A pensioner has spoken of her devastation as cowboy roofers who conned her out of an estimated pounds 79,000 in life savings await sentence.

George Chaffer, Allan Phillips and John Richards fleeced about pounds 145,000 "beer money" from elderly householders with worthless, unneeded or non-existent repairs, a court was told yesterday.

Then the trio drank away the cash in the pub, as reported in later editions of last night's Gazette.

A 76-year-old woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she had just pounds 3,000 left in the bank after the gang targeted her for more than a year.

After calling at her Billingham home in early 2003 to repair tiles damaged by storms, they carried out a string of bogus jobs at her bungalow.

"They just kept coming back again and again and again," she said. "It took them no time at all to empty my current account and then they started on my savings.

"The house was built in 1960 and I've never had any serious work done on it. That is why it sounded so believable when they came round and told me all these things needed doing.

"Sometimes I wasn't in when they called round and they would just go ahead and do the work without asking. I'd then get the bill."

The retired teacher, who lives alone, had to fork out pounds 1,000 to replace her garage roof, which the gang "repaired" with plywood and "waterproofed" with household paint.

"The whole experience has left me very, very bitter and of course at my age I can never make that money up," she said. "It was nice to know I had that financial security but now it's gone. They have cleaned out my savings. All I have left is the house and my pension.

"I never thought I could fall for something like this but they were so convincing - never nasty or abusive, just very insistent."

A 70-year-old man from Great Ayton was also ruined, with the loss of pounds 58,000, while an elderly Northallerton couple lost pounds 7,820, prosecutor Richard Bennett told Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

The Redcar men admitted conspiracy to defraud in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire areas between October 2002 and May this year.

Chaffer, 45, of Oliver Street; Richards, 51, of Brittania Place; and Phillips, 43, of Queen Street, are likely to receive long jail terms. A judge still has to decide each man's involvement.

"They deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable victims," said Mr Bennett.

"Richards was the main man, the talker, the one with the gift of the gab, cold-calling victims, engaging them in conversation and trapping them, one after another.

"Chaffer and Phillips were the grafters, if one can use that expression."

Sentencing was adjourned.

The Sting: Pages 8 and 9

Comment: Page 20
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 2, 2005
Words:477
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