POLICE have successfully sought confiscation orders from two women involved in a plot which saw a pensioner hand over tens of thousands of pounds on the pretence that his drains would be cleaned.

The 71-year-old victim, who has a full-time carer, was repeatedly duped into writing 15 cheques to the value of more than £85,000 after he was visited at his home in Bishop Auckland, County Durham.

Some of the cheques were stopped in time after the alarm was raised, but £60,074 in total was cashed.

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Four women with connections to the travelling community, Dixie-Lee Petch, Gillian Russell, Michelle Tyler and Jodie Rutley had previously been given jail sentences, some suspended, after admitting money laundering offences by allowing the cheques to be paid through their bank accounts over a 12 month period from June 2011.

Following action taken by Durham police, Judge Peter Bowers, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, ruled that 20-year-old Rutley, of Charltons Terrace, Saltburn, had benefitted by more than £13,000 from the offences.

Petch, 25, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, was said to benefitted by more than £6,000.

The court heard how the women had no readily available assets, but the orders made against them will remain until the owed amounts are fully paid, meaning money could be seized in the future.

Russell, 30, of Hewley Avenue, York and Tyler, 43, of Tynedale Close, Saltburn, did not appear for the proceeds of crime hearing and benefit figures in their case have yet to be agreed.

John Foreman, of Durham police’s financial investigation unit, said some of the money paid had already been returned to the victim.

He said: “This has been a long and protracted investigation involving a vulnerable member of the public who was repeatedly preyed upon by persons in order to obtain cash from him.

“This was done unlawfully in the guise of carrying out legitimate work.

“Persons of this nature involved in scams like this will be targeted and brought to bear where possible and confiscation proceedings will take place against them.”