The ringleader of a roofing scam is facing a jail term of two weeks for robbing a south-east Melbourne based woman a total of $30,000.
After completing his sentence, James Joseph O’Connor, who is an Irish national, will be deported back to his homeland but only after paying compensation.
The police bundled him after a fan of 3AW radio station heard a warning from a police about con artists.
By coincident, the same shams showed up at the fan’s Frankston home on Monday with a cool offer for fixing his roof.
The listener then played along with the fraudster and his team, luring them into his home where the CCTV captured their images and while he was still engaging them, he dialled triple-0.
Soon after, a divisional van manning the area caught up with the con in the company of three other Irish citizens along the Nepean Highway around Seaford.
The scam leader O’Connor, 27 who has been in police custody, was brought before the Frankston Magistrates Court on Tuesday via a video-link.
He was found guilty of acquiring property through deception and falsifying his name. The accused was directed to pay the victim $23,000 in compensation. During his arrest, a cash amount of $6,000 was seized which the court will return to the woman. O’Connor was fined a further $200.
On February 19, O’Connor had approached the 48-year old woman as she got out of her car. He then managed to convince her into giving him cash, claiming that her roof was in a bad state and needed urgent repair. He then handed her a quote worth $5,000 and promised to return to her home the next day.
On his return, the roofing gang began to cut down trees and branches near the roofline and asked her to stay indoors for safety reasons.
After hearing several banging on her roof, the next thing the victim heard was a knock on her back door after which she was told the cost had shot up to $9,000.
Since she didn’t have that kind of money in cash, the victim offered to pay via a bank cheque. However, O’Connor insisted on being paid with cash citing there were supplies he needed to purchase urgently. Eventually, the victim agreed to pay the $9,000 in cash.
When O’Connor visited the next time, he explained to the victim how charred the area around her roof was and that there were some elements of burning. He said he would take a snap of it to an electrician.
O’Connor told the victim that she would have to pay a total of $26,000 to have her house rewired but he would willingly arrange with his electrician to fix it for just $20,000.
On the same day, the victim dashed to the bank and withdrew $20,000, all in $100 notes and handed them to O’Connor. After that, O’Connor heightened the pressure this time bringing in an associate who posed as an inspector and threatened to cut the electricity supply along the street.
The fake government inspector even claimed that the woman’s house was considered an unsafe workplace and was required to be fined $30,000. O’Conner then promised to help make the sham inspector to disappear and never come back if she could give her a sum of $15,000.
Immediately O’Connor offered to take the victim to the bank to acquire a mortgage on her home. When the woman started asking him for receipts and identification, that’s how their interactions ended.
During investigations, the police found his fingerprints on one of the flyers he had given to the woman.
O’Connor was deported back to Ireland last November by the Australian Border Force for outstaying his visa, but returned to Melbourne in five days.
John Melhuish, a Detective Acting Sergeant based at Frankston CIU noted that fraudsters liaise and inform each other and in most cases they like traveling to Australia during summer to exploit those unsuspecting.
“The rate at which information relating to these kinds of incidents is flooding in is simply staggering. Remember, we were only able to crack down the con artists because of a keen, switched on member of the public,” noted Detective Melhuish.
“My appeal to you is to never pay cash for such jobs and no job should be done there and then. Also seek the services of professional roofers, electricians or qualified personnel that are duly licensed to offer these kinds of services.
If you’ve been a victim of a similar scam, then please visit your local police station and make a report so we can commence investigation.”
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