Six people have been sentenced at Swindon Crown Court for their part in the defrauding of two elderly residents in Wiltshire.

The individuals acted as money mules in a £250,000 money laundering case that was uncovered more than four years ago.

In August 2019, Wiltshire Council trading standards officers heard from an 80-year-old man in Bradford-on-Avon who had paid £55,000 for the installation of a new roof, after an initial quote of £2,800 for guttering work.

The officers could see that work to the roof was not required and that minimal work had taken place.

The elderly victim had paid £36,000 into the account of 47-year-old Serena Hodge of Grays in Essex and £19,000 to 39-year-old James Stinchcombe of Chippenham.

These individuals, who had never visited the property, withdrew the money in cash, of which they gave an amount to rogue traders, before keeping some for themselves.

A second victim from Chippenham was identified during the investigation, after he had paid £41,790 for roofing work into the account of Hodge’s partner, 35-year-old Patrick Egan, also of Grays in Essex.

Hodge, Stinchcombe and Egan all pleaded guilty to money laundering offences.

The victim from Chippenham had been quoted £7,450 for a guttering repair, following a cold-call by roofer Jamie Smith of St Austell in Cornwall, who has since been imprisoned for this and other rogue trading offences. 

The victim was targeted a second time when he was persuaded to pay £9,850 into the account of a 40-year-old Chippenham male to rectify Smith’s faulty work.

Two further payments were made to 35-year-old Arfan Asif of Yarm in Cleveland, who pleaded guilty to laundering £8,000.

The Chippenham resident was then contacted by another male who claimed to be from Trading Standards and persuaded him to pay £74,650 towards investigation costs into an account he was told was controlled by the Crown Court.

This money was in fact paid into the account of 42-year-old Claire Pemberton from Oldham, who pleaded guilty to money laundering.

35-year-old Liam Ben Turner-Belshaw of Chadderton in Oldham admitted to impersonating an HMRC officer. 

The guilty individuals’ sentences varied from community orders to imprisonment, the longest period of the latter being two years.

Stinchcombe, from Chippenham, was sentenced to a two-year community order, 30 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

Stinchcombe, from Chippenham, was sentenced to a two-year community order, 30 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

Egan was jailed for two years, Hodge received an 18-month term suspended for two years as well as 150 hours of unpaid work.

Pemberton got a 15-month community order, 25 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

Asif received an 18-month community order, 20 rehabilitation days and 150 hours of unpaid work while Belshaw-Turner had a six-month jail term suspended for two years.

Councillor Nick Holder, cabinet member for public protection said: “Our trading standards team will do all that they can to protect our residents from rogue traders and criminal attacks.

“Money laundering is not a victimless crime, and as this case shows, anyone who allows their own bank accounts to be used to transfer criminal money, can themselves end up with a criminal record.

“A person can be found guilty of a money laundering offence is the money that they receive is criminal property and they were aware or had reason to suspect that it is from criminal activity.

“The team were assisted with this complicated case by the officers from the National Trading Standards South West Regional Investigation team due to the widespread geographical offending by these individuals.

“I’d like to express my thanks and gratitude for their support in obtaining this successful outcome.”

Wiltshire Council has reminded Wiltshire residents that anyone with suspicions or information regarding money laundering can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.