Cowboy builders targeted vulnerable

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A DEFENCELESS victim of a gang of cowboy builders who ruthlessly targeted Fylde coast pensioners today told how she was duped.

The Tomney gang – who police believe fleeced vulnerable pensioners out of hundreds of thousands of pounds – were today beginning jail sentences totalling 20 years.

Francis Tomney Snr, 55, his twin sons Francis Jnr and Thomas, 21, who all lived in Dorset Avenue, Cleveleys, and nephew Brian Tomney, 29, of Salford, intimidated their elderly victims into handing over tens of thousands of pounds for dodgy paving and construction work.

They targeted addresses in Blackpool, Lytham, Thornton, Fleetwood, Preesall and Knott End as well as homes in Manchester and Hertfordshire.

In one shocking case a pensioner was made to hand over £31,000 for work the Tomneys claimed they had done at her Blackpool home.

The 72-year-old woman suspected the “sealant” they used on her uneven pathways was actually milk.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “They intimidated me. They ended up getting a lot of money from me. You blame yourself – you think, why did I let them in?

“I’m pleased the police have stopped them.

“They couldn’t go on doing this to people. It’s justice.”

The Tomneys’ victims were aged between 65 and 90.

The Blackpool woman added: “I put my trust in these lads.

“I’d have a conversation with them at the front door before they did any work. I felt they were genuine.

“They said it would need to be sealed and it would be silicone.

“That was another thing to add to the cost.

“It had a greasy look about it. I thought it was milk.”

Preston Crown Court was told victims included residents of Links Road and Riversgate in Fleetwood; Lancaster Road, Preesall; Pedder’s Lane, Blackpool; Sawley Avenue, Lytham; Harrogate Road, St Annes and Glenarden Avenue in Thornton.

Police said one victim was a 78-year-old man whose wife had just been diagnosed with cancer when the Tomneys preyed on him.

The court heard how the gang would regularly take part in “bouncing” where they would convince elderly residents further work was needed on their homes.

They told their victims it would add value to their homes and in many cases even started work before consent had been given.

One victim described Thomas as a “very plausible, very likeable conman.”

A couple from Riversgate in Fleetwood paid £6,200 for a new driveway

They were originally charged £5,000 but then this was raised to £6,200 when Thomas Tomney told them he needed a “specialist substance” to sort the drainage.

The work was described as “shoddy workmanship” as the garden began to flood when it rained because no drainage channels had been added.

A victim from Preesall described the men as “cowboys” after paying £12,000 for a new driveway which also leaked.

She described how the men had said they needed specialist material for between the paving slabs which she said looked like “bird seed.”

Det Insp Gary Brooks (above) said: “These were brazen, callous, despicable crimes.

“The Tomneys targeted vulnerable, elderly residents from a more trusting generation in order to deprive them of their life savings.

“They preyed on people who were an easy target. They would convince them more work was needed in order to extract every penny.

“People who have fallen victim to these men have suffered severe psychological damage and been left too afraid to answer the door.

“These were not likeable rogues, they are cowardly, career criminals and I hope these sentences act as a deterrent to other conmen.”

Complaints started to be made to Trading Standards in 2005. The police investigation began in November 2009 when search warrants were carried out.

Three safety deposit boxes in Manchester were opened and £480,000 in cash was uncovered.

Francis Tomney senior was jailed for five and a half years for conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation and two charges of cheating the public revenue and handling stolen passports.

Francis Tomney junior was jailed for five years for conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation and cheating the public revenue.

His brother Thomas was jailed for four and a half years for conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation.

Brian Tomney, was jailed for a total of five years for fraud and cheating the public revenue.

Summing up the evidence, Judge Michael Byrne said: “It is difficult to asses the role of each individual, but I’m satisfied the two brothers were equally involved and their father gave instructions and advice.

“The defendants all pleaded guilty, but in each case I do not believe the plea was evidence of remorse but an exercise in damage limitation which has been unsuccessful.”