A man and woman who were the subjects of the first financial abuse prosecution carried out by the West Yorkshire Financial Abuse Team (WYFEAT) have received custodial sentences.
In a hearing at Bradford Crown Court on August 5, Sharon Hughes and Miles Ogden were sentenced for offences relating to the financial exploitation and abuse of a vulnerable Calderdale resident.
Hughes, who had earlier pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, 240 hours of unpaid work and 25 day of rehabilitation activity. Ogden, who had earlier pleaded guilty to an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, was sentenced to five months imprisonment, suspended for one year, and 160 hours of unpaid work.
The two-year investigation began after a report of rogue trading activity at the victim’s home address. Ogden had agreed to undertake maintenance work at the victim’s address and to build a summer house in her garden. He took payment from her of £38,000, a grossly exaggerated price for the intended work, which should have cost around £6,000 in reality, prior to the work commencing, but then failed to return to complete. The construction of the summer house did not begin and the work that Ogden had completed was significantly overpriced and of a poor standard.
During the investigation it emerged that the victim, who has physical and learning difficulties, had become reliant upon Hughes. It was revealed that over a period of around a year, the victim had transferred more than £114,000 to Hughes, which she used to purchase property in her sole name. The victim had also handed over £12,500 to Hughes towards the purchase of a car which was never repaid.
Linda Davis, Head of the WYFEAT Task Force, said of the case: “Both Ogden and Hughes committed despicable crimes, taking advantage of an extremely vulnerable lady, to dupe her out of significant amounts of money.
“Our investigation uncovered evidence suggesting a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour by Hughes towards the victim, enabling her to defraud the victim of over a hundred thousand pounds, which she then used to buy a house and a car. Evidence suggests that Hughes’ behaviour isolated the victim from family and friends in order to make her more reliant on her for help and support.”
Sentencing the pair, Judge Burn stated that greed had got the better of them both and that they had been driven by an urge to profit from the victim, whom they knew to be both vulnerable and wealthy.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said: “This is a shocking example of exploitation perpetrated by people the victim should have been able to trust.
“The complexity of cases of this nature cannot be overlooked and the WYFEAT have done truly commendable work in bringing these offenders to justice, sending a strong message to anyone thinking of doing something similar.
“I have provided funding and support to the WYFEAT for a number of years as part of my commitment to safeguard vulnerable people. Results such as this one really do help to keep our communities safe.”
The Leader of Calderdale Council, Cllr Tim Swift, said: “The Trading Standards team worked tirelessly to bring these people to justice. This case should serve as a warning of the potential consequences to those who are thinking about exploiting people and we welcome the support from WYFEAT in tackling this horrendous crime.”
WYFEAT, which was set up three years ago to tackle fraud and financial abuse by rogue traders, was expanded in 2018 to support the five West Yorkshire councils in investigating safeguarding referrals relating to allegations of financial abuse. It has so far secured more than 14 years of prison sentences for rogue traders and investigated more than 250 allegations of financial exploitation and abuse of adults at risk.