Six men have been jailed for a string of frauds and distraction burglaries, which conned elderly people of amounts as large as £40,000, across St Albans and Watford.

The defendants were sentenced to a combined total of over 19 years imprisonment after being found guilty of conspiring to commit fraud at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday, December 4, and were sentenced on December 6.

Scott England, 23, from Oxhey Drive, South Oxhey, was sentenced to ten months for fraud and John Chapman, aged 24, and from Hilfield Lane, Aldenham was sentenced to three years for fraud and one year for money laundering.

The other four were Noel Devlin, 21 of Baring Road, London, who was sentenced to three years for fraud and one year for burglary; Hughie Devlin, 19, from Baring Road, London who was sentenced to two and a half years for fraud and one year for money laundering; Stephen Saville, 24, from Borehamwood who was sentenced to 15 months for fraud and Jimmy Devlin, 43, from Broxbourne Drive, South Ockendon.

Delvin failed to appear at court for sentencing and was sentenced to six years for fraud and one year for burglary in his absence.

The group was brought to justice by specialist detectives from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s team, Operation Manhunt.

The unit investigated a series of distraction burglaries and high value frauds against elderly and vulnerable victims between December 2010 and August 2011. The incidents spanned across St Albans, Bushey and Watford.

The gang gained access to their victims’ properties by saying they needed to check the damp problem from next door and while inside they would distract the victim and then search their house, stealing their cash and other belongings.

The team also conned victims into parting with large amounts of cash after building work was carried out at their homes. After doing the work and charging an inflated price they would increase the amount owed by claiming VAT needed to be added and saying the work had to be rectified.

In one incident in Bushey, the resident parted with about £40,000 after some sub-standard building work for which he originally paid around £20,000.

Hughie Devlin, John Chapman and Scott England were eventually arrested attempting to obtain £5,000 from a victim in Bushey in August 2011. The remaining three were arrested during a series of warrants in October.

Talking about the case, DC Rachael Gallagher from Operation Manhunt, said: "I’m really pleased with the sentencing. These six systematically targeted the elderly, obtained large sums of their life savings, using trickery and intimidation.

"People who prey on the elderly in this way are amongst the most despicable individuals in our society. I would urge people to look out for their elderly relatives and neighbours to ensure they don’t become victim to this crime. Just follow simple steps such as not opening the door to unknown callers. This will deny criminals the opportunity to dupe you into having work done or gaining access to your house to commit burglary."

Police are appealing for information of the whereabouts of Jimmy Devlin.

If anyone has information of his whereabouts they are asked to contact Hertfordshire Constabulary via the non-emergency number 101, as soon as possible.