1. ITV Report

Pensioner 'lost the will to live' after £60k roofer conman bombarded him with 50 visits to home

Fraudster Lee Gilbertson

A conman who fleeced three vulnerable householders out of more than £70,000 in a roofing scam is starting a long jail term.

Lee Gilbertson, 35, was described by one of his victims as “my personal stalker” after plaguing him with constant visits and money demands, duping him out of £55,000.

He also targeted two lone pensioners in their 80s, one with dementia, to swindle thousands of pounds, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The gambling addict blew their precious cash on betting machines and roulette machines.

A pensioner has spoken of the torment he suffered at the hands of the cowboy builder.

“By that time I was going to the wall. I was losing the will to live really.

He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I thought of him as my stalker, my personal stalker.”

– A 66-year-old fraud victim.

There were three very vulnerable victims. I form the judgment unhesitatingly that this was deliberate targeting of very vulnerable individuals.

You knew exactly what you were doing and who you were targeting. A vast amount of money has been taken, a total of £70,600.”

– Judge Simon Hickey to the defendant
The amount of money Gilbertson's victims were scammed out of.

The frauds spanned three years, starting by telling a 66-year-old retired man his roof needed repairs.

He tricked the man into handing over more and more money, driving him to the bank to collect it.

When the victim told Gilbertson he was trespassing, the fraudster simply laughed and demanded more cash.

The substandard work should have cost £500, but the fraudster scammed him out of £55,000, more than 10 times the cost of replacing the bungalow’s entire roof.

Despite being interviewed by police over this fraud, Gilbertson carried on regardless.

He turned up at an 86-year-old lone widower’s home in Newton Aycliffe claiming to have done building work. In repeated visits, he took £10,200 for work worth £250.

He demanded another £2,200 but the victim’s bank became suspicious and contacted police.

The 86-year-old victim later said he believed the fraud robbed him of his independence, leading to him going into a nursing home.

He was very very plausible. He was very personable.

He wouldn’t threaten me except in terms of, ‘You need the roof doing, if you have a storm or high winds it’s going to cause a problem’.

So he’d almost blackmail me into getting work done.

I used to be independent in my own home. I now live in a care home.

I will be in a care home until the day I die.

If I had never come into contact with Mr Gilbertson I believe that I would still be living at home and not in care.

The whole incident has affected my confidence and trust in other people.

I’ve lost my dignity.

Gilbertson took advantage of my good nature.”

– The 86-year-old victim

He was just not the same person.

He kept his problems under his hat due to his pride. He’s a proud man, and his pride and dignity have been affected massively by this incident.”

– The 86-year-old victim's brother

Finally Gilbertson took £3,200 from an 83-year-old woman with dementia in Darlington for roof work to her bungalow, twice driving the confused pensioner to the bank.

At one point he left a tap on, causing a leak in the garage, then demanded money for turning it off.

She told her son she wanted to give him £600 to leave her alone, prompting him to confront Gilbertson at the home and take photos of him as he tried to hurry away.

Gilbertson, whose address was recorded in court as Durham Prison, admitted three charges of fraud and six of possessing criminal property from 2014 to 2017, his first crimes.

Mr Gilbertson was effectively working for his addiction, desperation needing to feed this insatiable habit to gamble and drink.

He describes money in, money out constantly.

Every second of the prison sentence he’s about to receive will hurt him. It’s broken him as a person.

Every second of this prison sentence is killing him, in his words.”

– Tony Cornberry, defending

Judge Simon Hickey condemned Gilbertson’s “brass neck” and said he had to sound a warning to others who think they can defraud elderly people.

Gilbertson was jailed for six years and nine months and given an indefinite restraining order to protect two victims.

Appearing via video link to prison, he put his head in his hands as the hefty sentence was delivered.

His father Charles Gilbertson, 64, from Darlington, had faced similar charges but died earlier this year.