A SPECIALIST police team has reflected on a successful year that saw it solve high profile cases and protect vulnerable people from fraudsters.

Some of the cases cracked by Cleveland Police’s Economic Crime Unit (ECU) in 2019 have even been picked up by TV series such as Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats and Ill Gotten Gains.

Following a complex investigation, the unit helped to bring shamed hospice boss Graham Leggatt-Chidgey to justice.

He stole tens of thousands of pounds from charity and received a four-year jail sentence.

Last May a proceeds of crime hearing ordered Leggatt-Chidgey to pay back more than £140,000.

Two months later, in July 2019, Guisborough estate agent Roger Darnton was jailed for two years after he admitted defrauding two local people.

Darnton spent the £100,000 he stole on paying off loans and bills as well as buying a large number of antiques.

His case will feature on the TV programme Ill Gotten Gains in the near future.

Meanwhile, a four-year investigation led by DC Rachel Graham into what a judge described as “a thoroughly callous” fraud against a disabled Lottery winner led to DC Graham being highly commended by the International Association of Women Police.

ECU leader, Det Sgt Andy King, said: “The ECU works tirelessly all year round investigating fraud, and confiscating money and goods from those who exploit others and benefit from them.

“Last year was another busy one with some particularly high profile cases which really showcased the team’s work.

“Many of our investigations are extremely complex and involve complicated financial or legal aspects but the public should be reassured that we will always investigate their concerns thoroughly and professionally.

“We’re a small but dedicated team, and we work closely with colleagues from across the force; detectives, analysts and intelligence officers as well as our partners in financial, legal and other sectors – all with the shared goal of identifying, targeting and dealing with those who persist in fraud and other economic crimes - and seeking justice for victims.”

Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said the money seized from criminal gangs has allowed the force to work more closely with regional partners to tackle serious and organised crime.