‘Handy­men’ pair preyed on el­derly in £16,000 scam

Carmarthen Journal - - News - JA­SON EVANS 01792 545549 ja­[email protected]­di­awales.co.uk

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.

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