‘£100 garden work cost me £43,000 thanks to conmen’

Photo Neil Cross
Steve Bryant of Lime Grove,St Annes a victim of a �43,000 scam
Photo Neil Cross Steve Bryant of Lime Grove,St Annes a victim of a �43,000 scam
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A disabled man says he became ‘like a gambler’ throwing good money after bad as he lost more than £40,000 to a fraud gang.

Steve Bryant, – who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is battling bowel cancer – lost more than £43,000 to the gang who turned up offering yard clearance services for just £100.

It’s money he is never likely to see again – with specialist fraud officers admitting they have no leads.

What started as an simple offer to undertake garden work spiralled out of control as the group made relentless claims about repairs needed to their victim’s home.

Even when Mr Bryant had reported the crime to the police they continued their heartless push for cash –insisting every penny would be returned if the IT worker paid a one-off sum to ‘free up funds’.

At one stage the 56-year-old was asked for cash immediately following a CT scan - with a drip still in his arm.

The month-long ordeal began in September last year.

“A couple of guys turned up when I was in the front garden offering to clear it for me,” said Mr Bryant, of Lime Grove, St Annes. “It was a little overgrown and they offered to do it for £100.

“It seemed a good price, they were pleasant and reasonable enough.

“They started to do the work and said to me they would do the back as well, which was in a similar state, quoting £1,000.”

Mr Bryant, who worked for IT giant Hewlett Packard before being diagnosed with MS, admits there were warning signs which he initially ignored.

“There were no flyers,” he said. “The van was unmarked, I had no idea where these people had come from.

“Then they started asking for some money.

“At first they said they’d had to buy some specialist kit, then they needed to bring in some more equipment.

“They were asking for money for things I wasn’t sure I ever saw.

“The front and back were cleared but then they told me there were tree roots undermining the foundations.

“I was not convinced because most of the trees around my house are Leylandii which don’t have a lot of roots. I’d not needed to have anything done to the house.

“But I agreed. They were always very pleasant and affable. They caught me on my blind spot.”

The demands didn’t stop there, with the gang then insisting Mr Bryant’s home would need re-pointing –again requiring equipment.

“You end up like a gambler,” he said. “You know you shouldn’t keep putting the money in but you can’t help it. The garden work was done but that’s worth maybe £4,000. That’s only about 10 per cent of what I handed over.”

Even when Mr Bryant made fraud allegations to the police, the gang didn’t give up.
 “I got a call out of the blue saying I could have all the money back,” said Mr Bryant.

“They said the cash couldn’t be released without me paying 10 per cent up front. They wanted to meet me in a car park. First it was in Bolton, then they said they’d meet in St Annes.

“That was when I knew enough was enough.”

Mr Bryant – who is still undergoing chemotherapy for his bowel cancer – can’t believe the lengths the group would go to.

He said: “They knew about my condition. At one point they turned up just after I’d been in hospital. I had lines from a drip still in my arm.

“I’ve not been left destitute, the money I’ve lost, it’s probably my nest egg from my redundancy payment.

“If I can prevent just one other person from falling victim to this, that’s all I ask. I pray it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Lancashire Police said it had been contacted on October 3 last year.

They referred the case to Action Fraud – a specialist unit operated by City of London police.

A spokesman for Action Fraud said: “The case has been assessed but there are no viable lines of enquiry.

“30,000 cases are assessed every month and we cannot take every one forward.”