THREE members of a gang who fleeced two pensioners out of cash for gardening jobs have had their jail terms cut on appeal.
The two housebound victims, from Leigh, were tricked into handing over nearly £150,000 over a number of years for menial jobs that were either not done or for which they were vastly over-charged.
Christopher John Barnes, Allen James Logan and Daniel Chuter were jailed for a total of 14 years in March at Basildon Crown Court after admitting their various roles.
But their sentences were reduced by judges sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court, who said their crimes were 'despicable', but the crown court judge had his 'hands tied' by the limited basis on which they admitted their guilt.
The court heard they were part of a gang of six men who cheated a 72-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman out of thousands of pounds over a number of years.
The first target was David Booth, who was persuaded to part with £115,000 over five years after members of the gang went to his home and said they were owed money for gardening work they had completed.
They moved on to Joyce Squires who was duped into handing over around £34,000 from October 2009 onwards.
The court heard Barnes, Logan and Chuter all admitted their involvement and the prosecution accepted a limited basis of plea in each man's case - avoiding the need for the elderly victims to give evidence at a trial.
Barnes, 35, of Jay Gardens, Chiselhurst, was locked up for five years and nine months after admitting two counts of fraud and one of obtaining money by deception. This was reduced to five years.
Logan, 52, of Thackeray Avenue, Tilbury, was jailed for four years and six months for two counts of fraud, but was reduced to four years.
Chuter, 48, of Feenan Highway, Tilbury, was handed four years for obtaining money by deception and fraud. His sentence was cut by six months.
Mr Justice Langstaff said the crown court judge was wrong to treat the case as one over-arching plot, when each man had admitted specific offences and limited amounts of profit from their crimes.
He said: "Taking all matters into account, and recognising the repugnant nature of this crime, but limiting ourselves to the basis of plea, we consider that the sentences imposed must be quashed."