TWO fraudsters who lived the high life after conning elderly and vulnerable people across South Yorkshire out of hundreds of pounds for mobility aids they never received have been jailed.
Father-and-son team Shane and Laurence Johnson, who are today beginning a 12-month prison term, set up a firm called Nottingham Mobility in 2008 and targeted vulnerable residents across the area and beyond with cold-calling tactics.
Four elderly people in South Yorkshire fell victim to the scam, handing over hundreds of pounds for mobility scooters and stair lifts that were never delivered. The Johnsons used the proceeds to buy Porsche and Maserati sports cars and pay themselves and their family huge wage packets.
Among the victims was 86-year-old May Bell, who was stranded downstairs at her Tinsley home for more than five weeks after Nottingham Mobility failed to deliver a stair lift for which she had handed over £1,795.
She needed the lift because she suffers from arthritis and hip and joint problems, but was left stuck downstairs when no replacement arrived after an electrician visited her home in Ferrars Road and disconnected her old stairlift.
Despite repeated calls to the company, May was stranded for more than five weeks - forced to sleep in a reclining chair and use a chemical toilet.
The problem was only resolved when her family contacted Brooks Stair Lifts, the lift supplier, who informed them that no order had been placed for her. On hearing her predicament they arranged for another lift to be fitted free of charge by a different retailer called Eden Mobility.
May’s son Neville has since helped her bring civil court proceedings against Nottingham Mobility and so far they have been repaid £1,600.
Neville said he was pleased the pair had been brought to court and justice had been done.
“Hopefully this means they can’t do this to anyone else again,” he said.
“My mum went through great stress and discomfort whilst they were living the life of luxury. Luckily she is made of strong stuff so it has not affected her health - although she is much less trusting now and fearful of more things - but it could have been a very different outcome.”
Sentencing them to 12 months in prison for the 12 offences they each admitted, Judge James Jamson said they were “mean and manipulative”, and added: “Neither of you are fit and proper people to be involved in a business serving the vulnerable.”
Paul Gretton, team manager at Scambusters East Midlands, led the investigation which began last September and involved lengthy discussions with the four South Yorkshire victims - two in Sheffield and two in Barnsley.
He said: “It was hard not to be affected by their experiences, each of them has a really sad story to tell.
“We very much welcome the judge’s sentence, which sends out a strong message to anyone even thinking of preying on vulnerable, elderly people by mis-selling them disability aids.
“We will now be starting Proceeds of Crime proceedings to try and get back what we can for those like Mrs Bell who have already been targeted.
“Her experience with Eden Mobility shows that there are good and legitimate companies working out there, but the whole industry is getting a bad name because of people like the Johnsons who were obviously living a good life, while at the other end were the victims who had sometimes handed over their life savings to get something they thought they really needed, which they just never received.”