A judge has praised a dedicated trading standards team for their work in helping to bring down a gang of callous rogue builders.

North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards officers carried out a complex inquiry into one of the most challenging cases which they have undertaken.

Officers embarked on a prolonged period of surveillance work alongside police officers to collect evidence that David Mason had created a web of lies after he feigned symptoms of the tumour.

Mason’s deceit led to protracted delays in court hearings and caused the first trial to be abandoned in September 2021 after seven weeks, ramping up the stress on victims who had been called to give evidence – including one pensioner who is aged 94.

Read more: Dodgy fish salesman locked up for ripping off elderly customers across region

Passing sentence at Teesside Crown Court, Judge Jonathan Carroll praised the work of the trading standards team for pursuing such a “complex investigation”, and also branded Mason’s symptoms as “complete and utter fiction”.

He added: “This was a tragedy for elderly and vulnerable victims who were ruthlessly exploited, and the enterprise was established from the outset to take every penny available for extraction.

“Your offending was brutal in its callousness, with you laughing and filming the victims, mocking them and deriving entertainment from this.

“You fundamentally damaged the twilight years of your victims, with one victim almost driven to the point of suicide.”

The offences were carried out at properties in North Yorkshire, York, Cleveland and Durham, and one of the victims, an 89-year-old man from Colburn, was driven to his bank nine times and made to withdraw his life savings in cash totalling £23,950.

The campaign of exploitation against the often vulnerable and elderly victims saw the gang of fraudsters glean at least £51,735 from their offending.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for trading standards, Councillor Derek Bastiman, said: “This has been a concerted and co-ordinated campaign of exploitation that has been conducted by the defendants involved.

“To take advantage of often vulnerable victims and dupe them out of their hard-earned savings is a despicable act in itself, but for David Mason to then lie about the symptoms for such a serious condition to try and escape justice beggars belief.

“I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and tireless work of the county council’s trading standards team as well as their colleagues in North Yorkshire Police and the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit to bring these offenders to justice.

“It sends out a clear message that whatever attempts are made to evade the justice system, we will continue to pursue offenders to ensure that they are held to account for their actions.”

You can watch footage of the council's operation here.

Mason and the three other defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud a total of 22 householders out of tens of thousands of pounds by carrying out shoddy repairs to homes between September 1, 2017, and October 18, 2018 – or not even performing the work at all but still charging the victims.

The Northern Echo: Gang of dodgy builders locked up for targeting vulnerable pensioners. Pictured: David Mason, Gary Russell, Christopher Scott, and Adam Godley. Pictures: NYCCGang of dodgy builders locked up for targeting vulnerable pensioners. Pictured: David Mason, Gary Russell, Christopher Scott, and Adam Godley. Pictures: NYCC (Image: North Yorkshire County Council)

Mason, of Harlech Court, Ingleby Barwick, was jailed for eight years and eight months, and Russell, of Bridport Close, Stockton, was jailed for five years and three months.

While Godley, of High Street, Yarm, and Scott, of Gresham Road, Middlesbrough, were both sentenced to 20 months in custody.

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