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Bogus Irish and British roofers jailed for scamming elderly in Australia out of $434k

Killarney native Michael Dooley (36) and Englishman Johnny Dooley (34) were ordered by the County Court of Victoria to spend four years and nine months behind bars

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Neasa Cumiskey

Three men from Ireland and the UK have been sent to prison after conning elderly Australians out of $434,000 (€288,800) as part of a roofing scam.

Killarney native Michael Dooley (36) and Englishman Johnny Dooley (34) were ordered by the County Court of Victoria to spend four years and nine months behind bars while Joseph Ball (30), a dual citizen of Australia and the UK, was sentenced to four years in prison.

From February to July 2020, the men pretended to be contractors and approached homeowners in wealthy Melbourne suburbs telling them that they needed work done to their roofs.

They particularly targeted the vulnerable elderly, with some of their victims aged in their 90s.

Once the targets agreed to let the men repair the damages, the trio would remove tile, creating further issues and additional costs for their clients.

The court heard in many instances the homeowners felt pressured to accept the additional costs and workload because the jobs had already begun, and their homes were exposed to weather.

The men’s “sophisticated set-up" used several aliases, established fake companies, and registered vehicles under false identities to avoid being caught.

In one instance, a man was conned out of $102,000 (€67,800) after he was told asbestos had been discovered in his roof and needed to be dealt with immediately.

In a separate incident, Johnny and Michael Dooley approached a husband and wife, telling them they were working in the area and noticed a problem with their roof.

The couple wrote the men out a cheque, and the next day the Dooleys returned and claimed that the payment had been dishonoured.

They convinced their targets to transfer £80,000 (€94,000) to their fake business account as the husband had a UK bank account.

In total, the couple paid the conmen $147,888 (€98,400) in total. They received a full refund from their bank.

Overall, Mr Ball and the Dooleys scammed 43 people across 37 separate incidents, not including four people who were victims of identification theft.

All three men had pleaded guilty to almost two dozen charges, including obtaining property by deception and obtaining financial advantage by deception.

On Tuesday, Judge Michael O'Connell told Victoria's County Court the trio that "the cost of your offending is much wider than the funds you obtained” as they left their elderly victims traumatised.

"Invariably, they were elderly, they felt keenly the need to have a sound roof over their heads and they were in no position to challenge your false representations as to the need for repairs and the costs of carrying out those repairs,” he said.

“Their mistake was to trust that you were being honest. Now, their confidence in ordinary people to do the right thing has been severely shaken.

"It is not difficult to infer a wider chilling effect that your dishonesty has had on those in the community who might wish to use a local tradesperson, but may hesitate to do so when they reflect on the experience of these victims."

Both Michael and John Dooley will be eligible for parole in less than a year’s time while Ball will be eligible in just two months.

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