A rogue trader scammed more than £20,000 out of two elderly women after pretending to carry out work on rodent infestations which did not exist.
Richard McCarthy, 28, badgered his Cardiff -based victims into drawing thousands of pounds out of their accounts to pay for work on their respective properties claiming rats were running riot.
But there were no rat infestations at either of the victims' houses with McCarthy increasing the bill over a number of weeks which left both women cut adrift from their life savings. None of the money taken has been recovered.
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A sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday heard the first victim was 71 years old and received a cold call from workmen in January 2019 offering to repair a roof tile for £200 but she later received a call from McCarthy to say rats had been found in the attic. The defendant and others attended her home and looked in the attic and told here there was infestation.
The defendant told the victim he would be able to carry out the work for £2,600 but it would need to be carried out straightaway. She agreed to this and went to her bank with McCarthy to draw out the money.
Prosecutor Lee Reynolds said the defendant questioned the woman if she told the bank what she needed the money for and told her they could get "funny about this sort of thing".
McCarthy and a worker returned the next day where they appeared to carry out the treatment but the defendant told her another treatment was needed which would cost an extra £2,500 so the woman went to the bank and gave the money to McCarthy.
The deception was taken to great lengths with a worker turning up in a thick outfit including mask and hat. It was claimed the rats had chewed the floor and sealant would be needed. The woman became suspicious but agreed to pay another £2,300 with McCarthy following her to the bank. She was told again that a third treatment would be needed and she handed over another £2,000.
In total £11,400 was handed over to McCarthy and the victim said she did not see one rat. She told McCarthy she felt "ripped off" and asked for her money back but the defendant refused. He asked for another £1,500 to finish the work but the victim refused. She confronted him and called him a rogue trader but he told her to "drop the attitude".
In her victim personal statement the victim said she was made to feel "ashamed and scared" there was a rat problem in the house but the roof was still leaking. Her home was visited by the local authority who confirmed there were no issues with rat infestation and if there had been an issue it would have cost her £48 in appointments.
The second victim was 69 years old and also lives alone. In January 2019 she had a cold call from a man called "Adam" from environmental health who claimed she had a rat problem in her back garden. She let him into the garden and a worker with Adam shouted: "I've found one."
They produced a rat, claiming it had been pulled from a drain, but the victim noticed it was "bone dry". They said they would have to take up brick and cement to solve the problem and get at the drains but the victim said she did not want this done.
The following day a worker returned with another man in a van were in the garden for an hour and a half before leaving. The victim could not see any difference in the garden but she was called the next day at 9am by a man called "Jack" who told her she owed £2,000.
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The victim went to the bank and withdrew the money which she paid. This happened on another eight occasions over the coming months and the victim lost a total of £10,400. In April she was contacted and told she may be eligible for a refund of £15,000 but would have to pay £1,500. However the victim refused.
McCarthy was identified as playing the "leading and central role" in the enterprise and he was identified by both of the victims. None of the other members of the enterprise could be traced.
The defendant, who is serving a term of imprisonment at HMP Parc for burglary offences, later pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.
In mitigation defence barrister Kevin Seal said his client had cut ties with his former associates and claimed there were others above him in the chain of command.
He said McCarthy was not found in possession of large sums of money and did not live a lavish lifestyle as the money from the frauds went to those above him in the chain.
Sentencing, Recorder IWL Jones said: "What you did with others was to take advantage of two elderly vulnerable women living alone and who had clearly been targeted. These are serious and these are mean offences. Repeatedly over a period of time you asked for money and in each case told lies. You made them scared and in panic."
McCarthy was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
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