A GANG of rogue traders who fleeced elderly and vulnerable victims out of more than £1million have been jailed for a total of more than 27 years.

The six men, from Colchester and Tendring, had admitted targeting 18 victims for unnecessary building work before overcharging some of them.

Some had dementia and one was registered blind.

James Brown Snr, 45, of Duffield Drive, Colchester was jailed for 10 years after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property, fraud relating to loans, and two counts of fraud.

William Brown, 49, of Friday Wood Green, Colchester, was handed seven years after admitting fraud by false representation, conspiracy to convert criminal property and fraud.

CCTV footage shows 92-year-old victim Helene Reeve-Smith at the bank with gang ringleader James Brown Snr:

James Brown Jnr, 21, of Oak Road, Tiptree, admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and being involved in money laundering and was jailed for four years and eight months.

Peter Biddle, 66, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, was given four years after admitting fraud against three victims and converting criminal property.

Van Purdy, 60, of Bromley Road, Ardleigh, admitted conspiracy to convert criminal property and was jailed for two years.

Anthony Symes, 59, of Clacton Road, Weeley Heath, admitted fraud against two victims and converting criminal property and was handed a two year suspended sentence.

"Good news Grace is dead, she died 24th December, cushty"

Among the victims was Andrew Millar, 86, who had more than £157,724 stolen from him by the gang.

Afterwards, he thanked Essex Police and Essex Trading Standards for bringing the men to justice.

He said: "I do not consider myself to be someone who is easily hoodwinked but for quite some time I refused to believe I had been the victim of a fraud.

"This gang were very persuasive, and spent a long time building up my trust in them so that when they started to take advantage of me I didn’t see it.

"The huge learning point for me from all of this is to never trust anyone who turns up at your home offering to do work, or provide a service, which just seems too good to be true, because it almost certainly won’t be genuine.”

Detective Chief Inspector Keith Davies, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said the convictions followed a 16 month investigation.

He said: "During the investigation we spoke to around 140 potential victims of this gang. I think it is mark of how persuasive they were that 73 of these people were unwilling to engage with us - many because they did not believe they had been exploited.

"The tactics these criminals employed meant they would spend a great deal of time grooming their victims; doing favours for them and odd jobs for free in order to build their trust.

"Once they had secured that trust, though, then they were ruthless in abusing it. On several occasions they escorted their victims to banks in order to make sure they withdrew cash for work that was either never carried out or was hopelessly substandard."

For a special report, see Friday's Gazette