Thug made man (81) pay €14k for roof work worth €1,000

Thug made man (81) pay €14k for roof work worth €1,000

A Carlow resident, who was part of a team of fraudsters that made a 81-year-old man pay over €14,000 for work to his roof that was worth €1,000, has been jailed for 18 months.

Thomas Coffey (31) of Angler's Walk, Carlow Town, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing €4,800 from Sinclair Downey at his Dublin home in September 2013.

His 19 previous convictions include four for theft, some of which involve similar type of offending of stealing money from people claiming that legitimate work had been done on their home.

Garda Colleen Doherty told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that Coffey and his accomplice, Patrick O'Brien called to the man's home looking for further payment on unauthorised work to the man's roof.

They claimed that Mr Downey had only paid for half of the roof tiles and insisted that he owed a further €4,800. They then drove the man to the nearest bank and waited with him while he withdrew the cash from an ATM.

Coffey and O'Brien could be seen on CCTV footage from the bank waiting with Mr Sinclair and then being handed over the cash.

Coffey was arrested at his then Kerry home in Ballyspillane, Killarney on November 4, 2013. He later claimed in interview that he had been asked to collect the money on behalf of someone else.

When gardaí informed him that an examination of his mobile phone showed a call to Mr Downey's landline that September, Coffey accepted his role.

O'Brien (32) of Convent Road, Abbeyfeale, Limerick, was jailed for four years last July after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing €14,200 from Mr Downey.

His 29 previous convictions include 12 for theft, some of which involve a similar pattern of making elderly people pay over the odds for work carried out on their homes. He is due to be sentenced in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court later this year for a similar offence.

Laurence Masterson BL, defending Coffey, told Judge Martin Nolan his client had been treated as a psychiatric patient in Kerry General Hospital suffering from stress and anxiety around the time of the offence.

He said he did, however, accept that what he did was wrong and was remorseful for his actions.

Judge Nolan described the offence as “an odious crime” and said the men took advantage of a vulnerable person. He said Coffey deserved a custodial sentence before he jailed him for 18 months.

Gda Doherty said a number of men called to Mr Downey's Dublin home and told him he needed a hole on his end wall repaired as birds were getting into it. They initially quoted him €80 for the job but then said they needed to refurbish the seal and it would cost €1,700.

Mr Downey agreed for the work to be done but the man then returned to him and said that there were problems with a flat roof out the back of the house. He didn't agree to any work being done on that roof and no price was agreed.

Gda Doherty said the men renewed the roof and again called to Mr Downey claiming he had signed a contract for the work on the flat roof. The man never saw the contract but demands were made for money.

Mr Downey realised he had been tricked and he was told he would have to pay VAT on the work too. The man was worried about getting in trouble for not paying the tax and agreed to pay it.

He was then told that he owed €4,800 in total after O'Brien and another man claimed they had placed ridged tiles across his roof. Mr Downey made out a cheque for that amount to O'Brien who was later captured on CCTV footage cashing it in a nearby bank.

Coffey and O'Brien then returned claiming that Mr Downey had only paid for half the roof and insisting that he hand over a further €4,800 or they would take the tiles off the roof. They then drove Mr Downey to a bank on the Long Mile Road and waited with him while he withdrew the cash.

Gda Doherty said the men returned a final time to Mr Downey's home four days later telling him that he owed a further €4,600 in VAT for the work they had carried out. They insisted on getting cash and again drove the man to the same bank where he withdrew the money and handed it over.

During the garda investigation that followed, an engineer examined the gable end of Mr Downey's home and confirmed that it had been treated with plastic patching. He estimated that the work would have taken about two hours at a cost of €750 plus VAT.

He inspected two flat roofs which he said had been painted with reflective paint and estimated that Mr Downey should have been charged €200 plus VAT for this work.