A roofer who targeted elderly and vulnerable people, charging thousands of pounds for work that often did not need carrying out, has been jailed after a successful prosecution by North Yorkshire’s Trading Standards team.
Patrick Christopher Dunne, 20, of Griff Park Travellers’ Site, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was sentenced to two years and nine months at York Crown Court today (Friday, 21 June) after pleading guilty to 34 counts of fraud and consumer protection offences. He also admitted laundering the proceeds of his offending.
During the sentencing the judge praised the work carried out by North Yorkshire’s trading standards team, who are at the forefront of prosecutions nationally.
Dunne was arrested in May 2018 as part of Operation Gauntlet, a multi-agency safeguarding team based at North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards.
This followed complaints from the Scarborough area in August and September 2017 while he was trading as Phoenix Roofing.
Officers identified numerous victims in North Yorkshire and the West Midlands who had been visited by Dunne between February 2017 and May 2018.
The court was told he would offer to carry out inexpensive quick fixes and then inform the householders he had “discovered” further problems.
This additional work cost significantly more money, sometimes running into thousands of pounds.
He was prosecuted in relation to 17 victims, including a number of elderly and vulnerable people, in a case supported with funds from National Trading Standards and Warwickshire Trading Standards.
Among the victims were:
A 67-year-old woman who lived on her own in Scarborough who agreed for Dunne to put dry verge capping on her roof for £180. Dunne then told her the felt and wooden batons were rotten and charged her £4,000. An expert surveyor, who examined the roof as part of the case, found the work should have cost no more than £760 and that Dunne’s work had led to further repairs costing another £750.
A 76-year-old woman who came home to find her ill husband had agreed to Dunne carrying out work to their roof for £180. Dunne later demanded £2,250 from her.
An 84-year-old man who agreed to have dry verge capping installed at a cost of £300. Dunne then told him the batons were rotten, some tiles had holes in and the roof needed cleaning. He charged the victim £6,500.
Sentencing Dunne, the Recorder of York Judge Sean Morris said:
“In my view, you embarked on a deliberate course of conduct, targeting elderly and vulnerable people to make money for yourself.
“Some have been affected financially, some are fearful that somebody will come back and others are disgusted at themselves for no good reason.
“How you live with yourself I do not know. These courts will protect the elderly and vulnerable. When people are brought to book, and it’s expensive to do so for this kind of offence, the proper punishment must be seen to be handed out.
“This has to be looked at as a campaign of targeting elderly people.”
The judge added: “This was another well investigated case by Trading Standards and they are doing a good job.”
Speaking after the case, the daughter of an 85-year-old victim said: “This case is a warning to any families or friends of vulnerable people.
“These 'tradesmen' are very persuasive, convincing and threatening.
“We had no idea that our Dad had had someone to do anything on the roof until after his money had been taken. It's a horrible thought that someone was in the house watching him make a payment from his account. It could have been a lot worse.”
Councillor Andrew Lee, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Growth, Planning and Trading Standards, said: “Yet again this case illustrates the dangers of dealing with cold callers and the consequences offenders face when they come into North Yorkshire and target our vulnerable residents.
“We continue to have a zero tolerance approach to this unacceptable fraudulent behaviour and will do all we can to protect our vulnerable residents.”
Operation Gauntlet tackles all forms of fraud against vulnerable adults and consists of trading standards officers, police officers and a safeguarding officer from health and adult services.
With today’s sentencing the team has:
Secured 44 convictions in the past three years.
Seen offenders given a total of 87 years and five months of imprisonment for those receiving a custodial sentence.
Dunne also received a Criminal Behaviour Order, banning him from cold calling for five years on his release from prison.
He will also be subject to a Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation case in an effort to remove assets obtained from crime and to compensate the victims.
Reports to trading standards can be made via the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 and to the police on 101 or on 999 in urgent situations.