Rogue roofer jailed for scamming 84-year-old woman

Rogue roofer jailed for scamming 84-year-old woman

A ROOFER has been jailed for six months after he was convicted of scamming €3,000 from a frightened 84-year-old woman for unnecessary work at her north Co. Dublin cottage.

John McCarthy Jnr, aged 21, with an address at the Lane, College Farm, Newbridge, Co. Kildare was found guilty by Judge John Brennan at Dublin District Court of theft from Kathleen Byrne on November 3rd in 2014, a charge he had denied.

Judge Brennan said McCarthy was exploitative of the victim.

He said the 21-year-old unceremoniously escorted her from her home and took her in his van with another worker beside her, and drove her to her local post office.

This suggested a level of pre-planning and he had ample opportunity on the journey to call a halt to his criminal enterprise, the judge said.

He said the probation report showed he had little empathy and he places the offence in the context of a business misunderstanding.

In her victim impact statement, the elderly woman said she "is afraid to answer her door and locks herself in her house".

She was not present for the sentence hearing yesterday but in her statement she said: "I feel like I am in prison, at night I'm afraid."

The court heard she has become untrusting and suspicious of people. She will not go out on her own and it had caused her a lot stress and as a result her health is going downhill.

“I still go over the day in my head, I don't know why I went with them,” he stated.

Community service was not an appropriate remedy, the judge said and he then imposed a six-month sentence on McCarthy who did not address the court.

The court heard he lived with his parents, was engaged to his girlfriend and had just one prior conviction for a motoring offence.

During the trial earlier, the court heard Ms Byrne lived in thatched cottage in Raheny which also had a flat roof over an extension. She said “two well dressed lads” arrived and she thought they were “good fellahs”.

They claimed they had been doing work in a house nearby with a green door on a garage and from there they had seen her roof and that it was dirty and mossy.

They offered to clean it for €120 and she asked for advice from her friend and neighbour Ciaran Coates who came over and told her it was a good deal and he then left.

She told them they could clean the roof and another van pulled up and workers got onto her roof.

After about 20 minutes the defendant came down and told her “the whole roof is broke you can see the boards and the felt is gone”.

At first she was quoted €2,000, then the price went up to €3,000 and then to €4,000 to replace the roof and she said she could not afford that.

McCarthy, who worked for his father's firm, said he would bring her into Raheny Village Post Office and she got into his van and he drove her.

When she came back from the Post Office and got into the van again, she was asked, “did you get the money?”.

She handed over the €3,000 which the man counted, the court heard.

Ms Byrne said they drove her back to her house and when they arrived the men said the work was done, “but it was not done, I looked behind me and they were gone”.

She said two other men were left working on the roof. She said there had been no leaks on the roof which had last been replaced about 14 years ago.

She said she had been confused, upset and intimidated. The court heard they had also given her a leaflet saying: “We do not look for payment until work is finished and you are satisfied with our work”.

She also said she told the roofers “I hope you are not the ones going around robbing people, I could see their faces change”. She also said it was “a bit nerve wrecking, very frightening”.

Neighbour Ciaran Coates told the court that when he came returned to check on her he heard that the job had changed and told her that didn't sound right and to get a second opinion. She told him it was too late.

Two foreign men had been left working on the roof with blow torches and could not answer him when he asked them questions, and he then called the gardai.

Another local who the was the only person in the area with a green door or garage said he had nobody working at his house that day.

Garda John Doran said later McCarthy claimed to him that had gone out to buy felt and wood for the job. However, he was unable to say how much materials he needed. 

He claimed he went to a building supplier which was 15 minute drive away but after two hours he had still not returned.

Gda Doran carried out checks and found out the firm AA Advanced Roofing and Guttering Contracts was not a registered company.

An engineer, called out by gardai to inspect Ms Byrne's roof said it did not need replacing. Judge Brennan said that in the event of an appeal bail would be set in McCarthy's own bond of €100 with a €50 independent surety.