CRIMINALS who conned and stole thousands of pounds from a 87-year-old man battling cancer have been labelled despicable by police.

Frank Nero was preyed upon by cowboy builders who left him more than £2,500 out-of-pocket and with a half-finished roof after tricking him into unnecessary repairs.

Now, Mr Nero's neighbours in Eccleshill, Bradford, are rallying round him to raise enough money to reimburse his losses.

Mr Nero said the conmen targeted him when he was ill and he “fell into the trap”.

He said: “I turned the same man down two years ago and I should of done the same, but I didn’t.

“My wife is in respite care with dementia and I’m undergoing chemotherapy - I’m full of cancer - and I just didn’t have the wherewithal to resist and I fell for it.

“I partly saw it coming but I didn’t realise how much of a thief he was. When I went to get him some of the money he followed me to see where I kept it, and went back and took more from our savings when I wasn’t looking.

“It has really shocked me, I have hardly slept.

“I could have prevented it but it is like a whirlpool, once they suck you in there’s no way to get out."

The conmen left Mr Nero’s roof half exposed with tiles strewn across the roof, and he had to call out a builder in the night to fix it in pouring rain.

After hearing of Mr Nero’s plight, Andrew Chilton, a member of the BD2/BD10 Neighbourhood Watch group and one his neighbours, started a crowdfunding campaign following “a devastating and horrible betrayal of the trust of the most giving and charitable people one might have the pleasure to meet”.

Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said he believed police were well on their way to catching those involved, but he warned other residents to remain vigilant.

He said: “Police have a serious investigation under way, and the neighbourhood watch group has been fantastic.

“They all look out for each other and make each other aware of any crimes or problems in the area.

“I will be sending out letters to elderly residents in my ward to make them aware of the scam and to give them advice to be wary of people offering unsolicited building work.

“These people prey on the vulnerable and the elderly, they are dodgy people and this is a terrible thing that has happened, but the community has sprung into action for each other.

“I understand there have been other attempted scams around the district recently, and this is a call for everyone not to take undue risks.”

Detective Sergeant Steve Wedge, of Bradford District CID, said: “This was a despicable crime against a vulnerable member of the public and I would urge anyone who may have information about the suspects or the van they were using to come forward.

“We have been working closely with the victim to provide him with reassurance and assistance with crime prevention and are continuing enquiries to establish if others have also been targeted.

“We would advise people to keep their doors and windows locked when answering the door to anyone they are not expecting.

“Genuine callers should carry some form of identification and will not mind waiting while you check their details.

“If you are still not sure, do not let them in and report it to the police on the 101 non-emergency number.”

Anyone with information which could assist the investigation has been urged to contact Bradford District CID, quoting crime reference 13170346669.

Trading Standards offers advice to people to help them spot potential cowboy builders.

The list of warning signs to look out for include very cheap quotes and an unwillingness to put the offer in writing, an unwillingness to offer references, being over-keen to start the work, not offering or signing a contract, asking for money up front, not charging VAT, and only taking cash payments.

Cllr Stubbs added: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

To donate to the crowdfunding appeal, visit