TIM DREW: Conviction is a major success for Sussex Police

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LAST month, the police achieved a major success in securing the conviction of a gang of 13 fraudsters, following a series of frauds, in 2011.

The frauds were worth more than £250,000. Elderly and vulnerable victims in Sussex, Surrey and south and east London were conned after being told drains at their homes needed repairing as they were affecting neighbours’ properties. The victims were carefully selected and targeted on the basis of their vulnerability.

Typically, they were elderly householders who lived alone. A man would call at the door claiming that there was a problem with their drains that was affecting adjacent properties. A while later, the victim would get a call from someone claiming to be from a drainage company. He would describe the problem as serious and requiring urgent action.

Expensive equipment would be needed to do the necessary work and the hire of this equipment required a substantial but returnable deposit.

He would then ask the victim for a large sum of money on the premise that the work would start soon.

If the victim did not agree immediately, he would be bombarded with calls. The victims were persuaded by a combination of bullying, persistence and tales of the hardship caused to their neighbours.

In some cases, they lost their life savings.

Many of the payments were via bank transfer and, in order to ensure that they could not be traced back to them, the ringleaders persuaded their victims to pay into the bank accounts of associates, who were provided with cover stories and withdrew the money in cash.

This often involved a number of transactions and test runs, whereby the associates were instructed to withdraw some money at an ATM so that they could be sure that the funds had not been blocked.

• Just one surgery to report for the coming week – PCSO Sally Haggis will be available to discuss issues outside Gala Bingo, in Plaza Parade, Rowlands Road, Worthing, between midday and 12.30pm on Thursday, December 18.