FOUR callous crooks have been jailed after they were caught defrauding seven elderly “customers” out of thousands of pounds.

The men, acting as tree surgeons across Benfleet, Hullbridge, and Southend, drove or walked the victims to the bank, where they were ordered to tell staff they wanted to withdraw cash for a present.

The four were among seven initially arrested after five reports were made to Essex Police between November 9 and 16, 2017.

The victims were aged between 79 and 95.

Keegan Waters, 19, the youngest of the group, of Hinguar Street, Shoebury, was convicted of three counts of fraud and was fined and ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work.

James Cook, 31, of no fixed address, was handed 12 months for two counts of fraud, and also received 18 months in jail to run consecutively for two counts of burglary, after he stole a TV on Caster Drive, Pitsea, in June, and committed another burglary on York Road, Southend, in August.

Jake Rush, 26, of Clay Hill Road, Basildon, was found not guilty of one count of fraud by false representation while two men were also released without charge.

Marc Orsbourn, 40, of The Terrace, in Gravesend, received 18 months for two counts of fraud by false representation, and Mark Thwaites, 40, of Childs Crescent, Swanscombe, received five years for five counts of fraud by false representation.

Det Con Rob Lewis, of Basildon CID, said: “Following a complex and protracted investigation involving these callous and calculated crooks – two who have continuously tried to deny the offences – we today have had justice.

“The case involving all four men had a significant impact on the victims. They have also suffered a financial loss after being targeted by these men and we are doing everything we can to get the money back. We have managed to get thousands back but we remain determined to recover it all.

“This case continues to highlight the dangers of posed by cold callers who put leaflets through the letterboxes with the aim of targeting the elderly and vulnerable.

“I would urge everyone to remain vigilant, look out for elderly friends and relatives.”