Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Smoke Alarm Crook Must Pay Pounds 161,000; Conman's Cash Will Help to Compensate Pensioner Victims

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Smoke Alarm Crook Must Pay Pounds 161,000; Conman's Cash Will Help to Compensate Pensioner Victims

Article excerpt

AN alarm company boss who made more than pounds 750,000 from his crooked business must pay back every penny to his elderly victims.

Derek Hepple made hundreds of thousands by charging vulnerable pensioners as much as pounds 1,500 for a smoke alarm - despite the fire service installing them for free.

Detectives from Operation Bombay launched a covert operation to close down his Washington company and found he had fleeced 15 pensioners, some of whom were in their 80s.

Now he has had pounds 160,596 confiscated, with a huge chunk of that cash going to repay the pensioners that Hepple took for a ride.

Among his victims was Bill MacFeggan, from Durham, who had more than pounds 2,000 siphoned from his accounts by the trickster for a 24-hour security alarm.

Hepple repeatedly visited the widowed pensioner's home with his smooth-talking colleagues to charge extortionate sums for work.

Today grandad Bill, 74, whose wife Mary died in 2009, said: "I was so angry when I realised what was happening, I could have torn his head off.

"I only spoke to Hepple a couple of times, it was mostly his sidekicks. They were very smooth and the alarm sounded great.

"But you don't expect people to come into your home and do these things - but that's the way of the world these days."

While fleecing his clients Hepple, who owned the company Night and Day, wasn't paying tax or VAT. He splashed more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds on houses, holidays, cars and luxury treats for himself, including an Audi RS6.

The 44-year-old, of Kingsway, Houghton-le-Spring, was jailed for four years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to defraud.

His co-accused Stuart Robinson admitted defrauding four customers to the tune of pounds 8,715 while Kenneth Reed admitted ripping off four different customers to the sum of pounds 3,480. Robinson, 32, of The Wynd, Chester-le-Street, got eight months and Reed, 56, of Whitehill, Leam Lane, Gateshead, got six months.

Hepple has now appeared at Newcastle Crown Court to face a proceeds of crime hearing.

Robert Adams, prosecuting, said: "Out of the confiscated sum, we ask the court to order compensation to the victims in this case. …

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