THREE men have been sentenced at York Crown Court after targeting an elderly and vulnerable pensioner and attempting to defraud them of more than £16,000 for alleged work on their property.

The case unfolded due to an investigation launched in December 2019, when a relative was present in the victim’s house as the men called him to ask for money. She reported the incident to police, who referred the case to Operation Gauntlet, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team hosted at North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards.

Handwritten notes were found in the victim’s house including the name ‘Mohammed Fiaz’ and the bank account details of Ahmed Motara. Notes also referred to ‘roof’ and ‘camera’, but no works undertaken by the men could be identified at the property.

The victim was hounded by the offenders with demands for payment, with 37 calls made to his landline number. The calls were all made from the mobile phone of Shuraih Bham. Evidence obtained during the investigation also showed the three men were in regular contact, particularly around the times of the calls to the victim. They had also visited the victim at his home, on one occasion at 9pm on a December evening.

Vigilance from the Nationwide and Skipton Building Societies prevented the fraud, which could have cost the victim £16,750.

Mohammed Fiaz was a customer of the Nationwide and the first two cheques paid by the victim were for £4,950 and £2,800.

The Nationwide suspected fraud and stopped the cheques being cashed. They requested Fiaz produce evidence that he was entitled to the money.

Fiaz subsequently sent a forged letter from the victim to the Nationwide, which stated he was happy with the work and the price paid.

The letter had been provided by Bham. In addition, Fiaz sent a forged receipt for the final £9,000 cheque, claiming six windows and two doors had been replaced, 24 metres of fascias, soffits and guttering had been installed, roof patch up work, gardening work, internal works and patio works had been undertaken. These claims were false.

The Skipton Building Society also prevented the final £9,000 being paid from the victim’s account, after their financial investigations team suspected fraud and liaised with the Nationwide.

Bham and Fiaz entered guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to defraud and Motara to a charge of attempted money laundering.

Shuraih Bham, 33, of Ivywood Court, Bradford, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, Mohammed Fiaz Askar, 39, of 96 Cumberland Road, Bradford, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment and Ahmed Motara, 23, of Furlong Road, Gloucester, was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment, suspended for one year, and ordered to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work.

Sentencing Bham and Fiaz Askar, The Recorder of York, His Honour Judge Morris said: “People in the twilight of their years are entitled to see out their time in peace and dignity and not to be ripped off by a couple of thieves like you.”

“You met and hoodwinked this vulnerable gentleman. But due to the commendable vigilance of the Nationwide it was spotted and they are to be congratulated. Fortunately, the cheques were never cashed", he added to Bham.