‘Handymen’ pair preyed on elderly in £16,000 scam
HEARTLESS handymen scammed an elderly couple out of more than £16,000 for gardening and maintenance work worth just £1,200, a court has heard.
Cousins Tony Joseph Jones and Peter Mark Roberts fleeced their victims of thousands of pounds of their savings for carrying out work such as powerwashing a yard, removing moss from a garage roof, and clearing rubbish – work described as being of a standard “worse than the poorest DIY”.
The scam was only stopped when an eagleeyed bank manager noticed the elderly couple were making a rapid series of large cash withdrawals from their account and contacted the authorities.
Swansea Crown Court heard the husband of the couple, who was in poor health at the time of the fraud last summer, has since died – and the judge told the defendants they had used the unwell man as a “cash cow”.
John Hipkin, prosecuting, said 27-year-old Jones had previously done general maintenance work for the couple when they lived in Porthcawl – without complaint or problem – and when they moved to a new property in Penllergaer in Swansea he was asked to do more work.
The court heard a number of jobs were identified as needing doing at the new address including removing a tree and some fencing, power-washing a yard, removing moss from a garage roof, and clearing rubbish.
The prosecutor said Jones and 45-year-old Roberts refused to provide a proper breakdown of costings for the various jobs and “large and significant sums were paid over” to the defendants by the victims.
On May 23 last year the couple withdrew £5,300 from their bank to pay the conmen.
The following day some £4,000 was added and then the day after that another £1,500. Finally on May 29 was paid.
In total the conmen cousins pocketed some £16,400 from the victims with another £4,000 payment agreed but not handed over.
Jones, of Kinsgmoor Common, Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire, and Roberts, of Lotwen Road, Capel Hendre, Ammanford, admitted fraud by false representation.
Jones has no previous convictions while Roberts has “numerous” convictions including dishonesty matters and conducting unlawful commercial practises involving elderly victims.
The court heard Roberts has no assets with which to pay any compensation while Jones has a van – bought with cash from other members of the traveller community in order for him to expand his business – which is worth some £12,150. The van is currently subject of a restraining order and cannot be sold or otherwise disposed of.
Emma Harris, for Roberts, said her client had joined the gardening enterprise with his cousin but found he had “bitten off more than he could chew” with the Penllergaer job.
She said Roberts “bitterly regretted” the suffering he had caused.
John Ryan, for Jones, said his client had worked as a handyman for a number of years without com- another £5,600 plaint and the offence was out of character for the dad-of-two.
The court heard police had asked a surveyor to examine the work the pair had carried out at the Penllerager property and he had concluded that it was a £5,000 job.
However the standard of the work done was described as being “worse than the poorest DIY” and was worth little more than £1,200.
Judge Peter Heywood told the men they had charged their victims an “extortionate amount of money” and had taken advantage of the husband’s poor health.
He said: “I have doubt you exploited situation.
“You saw him as a cash cow and took advantage of the situation. I am told you are both remorseful – whether that is remorse or self-pity it is not clear to me.”
Roberts was sentenced to 12 months in prison and Jones was jailed for nine months.
The defendants waved and gave thumbs-up gestures to family and supporters in the public gallery as they were led away.
One man from the public gallery banged on the glass of the dock as he left the court and said goodbye to the defendants.
He was hauled back into court by the judge and told he was in a court, not a public bar, and could be held in contempt and no the locked in the cells for the rest of the day. The man apologised.
After the sentencing South Wales Police detective constable Victoria Bayly, the officer in the case, said: “Jones and Roberts preyed on their victim, whom they targeted because they thought he was vulnerable, and pressurised him into withdrawing thousands of pounds to pay for work they didn’t have any intention of doing.
“Sadly the victim has passed away since this fraud took place and so the burden has passed on to his wife who has had to deal both with the loss of her husband and the financial implications.
“Safeguarding victims, particularly those who are vulnerable, is a priority for South Wales Police, and I am pleased that Jones and Roberts have been brought to justice.”
She added: “I would urge anyone who has any suspicions that they or a loved one is being targeted by rogue traders or other fraudsters to tell police or Action Fraud so that perpetrators of these types of offence can continue to be dealt with by the courts.”
Tony Jones (left) and Peter Roberts.