Rogue roofer scammed 84-year-old woman

Kathleen Byrne
Kathleen Byrne

A ROOFER has been found guilty 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 convicted by Judge John Brennan of theft from Kathleen Byrne on November 3rd in 2014, a charge he had denied.

He faced trial at Dublin District Court during which the pensioner said she was intimidated and brought by the roofer to the her local Post Office to withdraw the cash from her savings.

An engineer also told the court the work McCarthy said he would carry at her Raheny cottage was not needed. 

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

Judge Brennan said that it was a “quite despicable” act; Ms Byrne, he added, was a vulnerable 84-year-old woman living on her own and had €3,000 extracted from her in circumstances where no documentary evidence such as receipts or quotations were provided to her which he imagined would be normal for responsible businesses.  

He also said she was not given any time to consider her options and she was “ferried” to the Post Office to get the money.

Judge Brennan adjourned sentencing until a date in March to allow for a pre-sentence probation report on McCarthy as well as a victim impact statement to be prepared.

The court heard Ms Byrne lived in thatched cottage which also had a flat roof over extensions to the property. She told prosecuting solicitor Stephanie O'Brien that “two well dressed lads” arrived and she thought they were “good fellahs”. They said 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 and upset and intimidated. The court heard they had also given her a leaflet saying: “We do no 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 later rang the firm and spoke to the defendant's father who also works in the same business. The defendant was also told not to return to Ms Byrne's home and he met the garda to make a voluntary statement a couple of days later when the money was returned. 

In his statement he claimed he had gone out to buy felt and wood for the job. However, he was unable to say how much materials he needed.

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.

McCarthy did not give evidence and remained silent throughout he trial.

Finding him guilty, Judge Brennan said the prosecution witnesses were credible and he rejected defence submissions that McCarthy had gone to get supplies having entered into an agreement.

The court heard McCarthy had just one prior conviction for a minor motoring offence and has not come to attention since.