THE LONGEST sentence handed down to a cowboy builder by the courts in recent years is the five-and-a-half-year stretch slapped on Bournemouth- based fraudster Roy Williams.
Known locally as the Fiddler on the Roof, Williams preyed on the elderly and infirm across Dorset by charging up to seven times the normal rate for building work.
This cash funded a lavish lifestyle,including a villa in Spain and a Mercedes car, until Williams was convicted at Bournemouth Crown Court in March 1999 on one count of fraudulent trading and 23 charges of theft, totalling £126,000.
In sentencing Williams, Judge John Beashel told a packed court: 'You deliberately sought out the elderly and vulnerable households in order to defraud them. By using charm and trickery, you persuaded them to part with large sums of money.'
The second longest sentence was handed out recently to William McPhee, dubbed the 'King of the Cowboys' in Edinburgh's High Court.
McPhee, of Castlecary, was jailed for four years for a series of crimes including defrauding 16 pensioners out of a total of £80,000 in just one year.
He was also given three months to repay £60,000 to his victims, including a 91-year-old woman from Renfrewshire who was charged £20,100 for work worth £800.
Midlands cowboys Robert Sheridan and Thomas Forbes were equally merciless. Their activities included a sting on pensioner Verna Hotchkiss for £4,660 for work again worth only a few hundred pounds.
Mrs Hotchkiss, of Stirchley, was left so broke she was forced to have her cat put down because she could not affordthe vet's fees.
The spree ended in October, when Sheridan and Forbes were sentenced to three years and three months and four years respectively.