A TARMACKING gang from near York which conspired to defraud residents and businesses has been jailed for a total of 14 years.

Shaun Thomas Snr, 50, his sons Shaun Thomas Jnr, 28, and Henry Hartley Thomas, 25, all of both Holmelea traveller’s site, Elvington, York, and Malim Road, Darlington, and their associate Thomas Mounsey, 56, of Durham Road, Bishop Auckland, were convicted after a three-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.

Shaun Thomas Snr, Henry Thomas and Thomas Mounsey were also found guilty of money laundering offences in relation to the proceeds. All four were jailed for three and a half years.

North Yorkshire County Council said an investigation was launched in 2016 by Operation Gauntlet, the multi-agency safeguarding team hosted at the council's trading standards department, after residents complained about false statements being made by the men when they cold called, offering tarmacking services.

A spokesman said the men, who traded as Franky Direct Ltd, HRT Trading Ltd and TNT Asphalt Services, claimed they were working for the Highways Agency or local councils in relation to legitimate road repairs, claimed they had material left over from the work and offered to tarmac driveways and parking areas at a low price.

Thinking they were getting a good deal and dealing with legitimate traders, the residents agreed to the work, but when it was completed, the men demanded significantly higher prices, with the prices inflated tenfold in most cases.

A disabled woman from near Pickering agreed to work to her parking area after calculating from the quoted price that the final bill would be about £200, but when the work was completed, she was told the price was £2,500 plus VAT. She was extremely shocked and told the men they were mistaken, but they insisted the price was right and told her she needed to pay that day, but if she paid in cash they would not charge the VAT. She had to borrow £2,000 from a relative to pay the bill and said she 'felt totally ripped off.'

Sentencing the men, Judge Sean Morris, who praised the trading standards 'meticulous' investigation, said: “I have had to see witnesses eye to eye in this case who were scared. They’d been scared by you lot. I take the view this was an unpleasant and deliberate conspiracy."

Cllr Andrew Lee, executive member for trading standards, said after the case: “Organised crime groups who target our residents in North Yorkshire, including those who are vulnerable, can be assured they will face a robust response from our multi-agency team."

One of the fraud victims said the men obtained money fraudulently without thought of the consequences, 'destroying the confidence of people, taking their savings, putting people in debt, all without conscience with regard to the means used.'