TWO rogue traders jailed for what investigators called one of the worst cases they had seen have had their sentences increased.

The Court of Appeal today (May 16) ruled the original terms handed out to North Yorkshire pair Monty Croke, 46, and son Monty Jr, 26, were unduly lenient.

They were jailed for five years and 30 months respectively after admitting fraud conspiracies and money-laundering at Teesside Crown Court in February.

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But after Solicitor General Oliver Heald referred the case to the Court of Appeal, their sentences were increased to seven-and-a-half years for Croke, from Pickering, and four years for Croke Jr, of Knaresborough.

Running businesses carrying out domestic building works and home repairs, they left a trail of devastated victims - mostly elderly, infirm or disabled - across the north of England.

Not all customers were defrauded but some were pressured into agreeing to have work done. The work carried out was mostly unnecessary, shoddy and overcharged.

The victims, deliberately targeted because of their age and vulnerable nature, were deceived into parting with large amounts of money and cheques used to pay for the work were changed to bigger sums.

One victim, a vulnerable male with ill-health from the Malton area, was defrauded of £250,000 over eight years.

Following today’s hearing Mr Heald said: “This was a terrible case of elderly and vulnerable people being duped into accepting that repairs were needed on their homes, repairs that were entirely unnecessary and in fact the work that these fraudsters did on the homes of the victims actually made the state of the homes worse.”

He added: “Older people who live alone are particularly vulnerable; they deserve our respect and should feel safe in society and in their own homes.

“The increase in today’s sentences sends out a clear message that this type of offence will be dealt with severely.”

The investigation was led by North Yorkshire’s trading standards team, which said it was the worst case of repeat victimisation it had seen.

The county’s executive member for trading standards, Chris Metcalfe, said: “That offenders such as these can undertake the ruthless exploitation of vulnerable adults in this way, often for prolonged periods, is disgusting and abhorrent.

“The increase of sentencing today shows that as a society we are determined that such ruthless fraudsters will be suitably punished.”