Nearly twelve million euros in fines and compensation, and up to two years of imprisonment, were pronounced Monday in Dijon in the so-called capricorn case, an insect whose presence was detected in frames by scammers.
The nine defendants, who cheated more than 460 owners, were convicted of "organized fraud, deception on the provision of services, aggressive business practices, abuse of weakness and aggravated money laundering".
The main perpetrator of this sprawling scam was sentenced to five years in prison, three of which were suspended, as well as a fine of one million euros.
"The weak against the strong"
In a judgment that required an hour and a half of reading, 112 civil parties, all from the Grand Est, were recognized but many died or abandoned the long procedure.
At the beginning of the case, 466 victims, often elderly people from Haute-Marne, had filed a complaint for having been deceived about unnecessary work, between 2010 and 2016. The defendants had assured them - wrongly - that their frames were infested with capricorns, an insect pest that feeds on wood and ravages homes.
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"It's the weak against the strong," prosecutor Claire Durand said to qualify this scam, asking "to restore dignity to the weak", referring to the victims, often elderly, who had to go into heavy debt to carry out useless work.
The second heaviest sentence is four years in prison, two of which are suspended, as well as a fine of one million euros. The other seven defendants received 18 months suspended to four years, two of which were suspended, and fines of up to 173,000 euros.
Defendants banned from business
In total, these fines approach €2.4 million. In addition, the nine defendants will have to pay jointly and severally damages of nearly 9.5 million euros. They are also prohibited from running a business.
"These sentences may seem extremely important but this scam was extremely lucrative and carried out against people of often less fortunate ages," said Lucie Renoux, lawyer for fifteen civil parties, after the hearing.
The lawyer said she was "satisfied" but stressed the difficulty that there will be for civil parties to obtain these damages, as the convicted are often insolvent or even living abroad.
The defense, which did not express itself at the end of the sentence, had stigmatized during the trial an "injustice", a lawyer listing in particular the employees of the companies concerned who earned more than 50,000 euros per month over the period concerned and who are "not in the procedure".