Major police operation nails Lowestoft rogue traders

TWO rogue traders from Lowestoft who pocketed thousands of pounds after preying on elderly people across north Suffolk and Norfolk could face prison sentences after pleading guilty to a string of fraud conspiracy charges.

Michael Williams and Anthony Field admitted a total of more than 30 offences in a two-year spree that saw them deliberately over-charging for shoddy work – and in a number of cases billing for jobs that were not even done.

But the pair were caught out after a joint operation between Norfolk and Suffolk police, which found that 'older and more vulnerable' residents in Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Norwich and the north Suffolk areas had been duped out of an estimated �50,000.

It led to Williams, 33 of Union Lane, Oulton, and Field, 26 of Marine Parade, Lowestoft, pleading guilty at Norwich Crown Court last week to charges of conspiracy to defraud.

Investigations into Williams' and Field's activities were launched by Norfolk police in September 2008, when allegations were made that they had grossly overcharged an elderly man in Great Yarmouth for work on his garden.

The early work was handled by the force's Operation Radar unit, set up two years ago to specifically deal with rogue traders, distraction burglaries and rural crime, and working in partnership with other agencies including Trading Standards and the Environment Agency.

Det Con Steve Moseley, who works for the unit, said the investigation into Williams and Field represented its 'biggest job'.

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He said: 'From a rogue traders and conspiracy to defraud elderly victims perspective, for Operation Radar this is the biggest case we have been involved in... The work started in January 2009 after the first victim was targeted in September 2008. We basically discovered a poor quality driveway and poor gardening work with the victim being charged thousands of pounds. The work they had carried out was extortionately overcharged and the quality was dreadful.'

Following the pair's arrest and initial court appearance, more victims emerged across Norfolk. Suffolk police then contacted their Norfolk colleagues earlier this year after a spate of conspiracies in north Suffolk – and a joint operation was launched.

Det Con Moseley said the offenders were very persuasive and evasive. 'They used fraudulent false representations to convince elderly people they would carry out work to their driveways in Caister, Bradwell, Great Yarmouth, Winterton, Hemsby, Lowestoft, Norwich and Halesworth but despite money being paid the work was never carried out, and excuses were always made,' he said.

Last Thursday, at Norwich Crown Court, Williams pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to defraud. 'There were 31 fraud offences, which were placed under the umbrella of three conspiracies,' a Suffolk police spokesman said. 'One conspiracy was for the company of Regional Plastics, the second conspiracy was for the company called J D Roofline and the third conspiracy was for the company called Oulton Drives and Plastics.

'Michael Williams pleaded guilty to all three conspiracies, which go back as far as 2009 and end in September 2010.'

Last Friday, Field pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud at Norwich Crown court. 'He pleaded to the counts of conspiracy for the companies J D Roofline and Oulton Drives and Plastics, which go back as far as 2009 and end in September 2010,' the police spokesman said.

During last week's hearings, the judge commended the Suffolk detective constable responsible for overseeing investigations locally.

Both men are due to be sentenced at Norwich Crown Court on January 17.

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