A cowboy builder who fleeced dozens of vulnerable pensioners out of £300,000 for unnecessary work to their homes has been jailed for six years.
Callous Alan Fitzgerald, 47, even drove his elderly customers to the bank so they could withdraw money from their life savings before handing over bundles of cash.
A court heard the “truly despicable” conman scammed 39 victims over a two-year period by not completing work or grossly overcharging them.
One victim paid £29,780 for work that should have cost just £9,600 to complete.
Fitzgerald even told one 94-year-old victim she had asbestos in her guttering before tricking her into coughing up £6,000 by saying she could be prosecuted.
Incredibly, brazen Fitzgerald even continued to rip-off customers after his first appearance in court last year.
The builder committed the frauds while operating two companies, Fitz Multi Trade Builders between November 2011 and January 2012, and then A J Builders between October 2012 and October last year.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent trading, one charge in relation to each of his firms.
On Tuesday Fitzgerald was jailed for six years in prison at Northampton Crown Court.
The dodgy builder, from Stanwick near Wellingborough, Northants., was also disqualified for being a director of any company for 10 years.
Judge Richard Bray told him: “I have to sentence you for serious premeditated frauds.
“I am satisfied that you targeted vulnerable victims, pressuring them into handing large sums of money to you, often in cash and often representing substantial parts off their life savings.
“Ten of the victims in the first indictment alone were over 70. Many of them were infirm, some of them had carers,
“One of them was a lady aged 94. You threatened her that she could be prosecuted if she didn’t have repair work carried out by you.
“You obtained £6,000 in advance from her for work you didn’t carry out properly, or at all. It is a truly despicable offence.
“You wilfully ignored the warnings given to you by trading standards.
“After you had been arrested in 2011 by the police and subsequently made bankrupt, you simply started up all over again.
“The suffering to the members of these households can only be guessed at.”
The court heard Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards team received complaints about Fitzgerald dating back to 2005 and had issued him with a number of warnings.
Officers said there were a further 46 complaints not included in the formal charges.
But the conman continued to target elderly pensioners in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
The court heard Fitzgerald targeted and even intimidated elderly pensioners by warning that their homes urgently required repair work.
Once he had identified a vulnerable victim, Fitzgerald would continue to “tap the well” and would return time and time again to fleece them of more cash.
It also emerged Fitzgerald, who has no formal building qualifications, never filed a tax return for either of his two companies.
Speaking after the hearing, Northamptonshire’s trading standards team welcomed the six-year sentence – which was double their previous record.
Officers said Mr Vincent said Fitzgerald would target victims through cold calling, often falsely telling them they needed work doing on their homes.
John Vincent, divisional manager for Northamptonshire County Council’s trading standards, said: “The sentence, we believe, reflects the seriousness of the offences and the fact that there were numerous victims involved and that many of them were targeted because they were vulnerable.
“This is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for a matter prosecuted by Northamptonshire Trading Standards.
“At times he was just calling and offering to do work, then once he had secured the work he would follow it up with a fairly predictable pattern of obtaining cash up front.
“The average age of the victims was over 70 years old and in one case, Mr Fitzgerald targeted a 94-year-old with what we considered to be a disgraceful lie to obtain work from her.”