Monday 26 September 2016

Man jailed for four years after he made elderly man (81) pay over €14,000 for work to his roof - which was only worth €1,000

By Sonya McLean

Published 30/07/2015 | 15:35

A Limerick man with a history of stealing from elderly people has been jailed for four years after he made a 81-year-old man pay over €14,000 for work to his roof that was worth €1,000.

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Patrick O'Brien (32) of Convent Road, Abbeyfeale, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing €14,200 from Sinclair Downey in September 2013.

His 29 previous convictions include 12 for theft, some of which involve a similar pattern of making elderly people pay over the odds for work carried out on their homes. He is due to be sentenced in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court later this year for a similar offence.

Judge Martin Nolan said Mr Downey was vulnerable and susceptible to O'Brien and his accomplice. He described the men as “preying” on him by visiting him three times. He sentenced O'Brien to four years in prison.

Tony McGillicuddy BL, defending, said O'Brien was one of the prisoners held hostage in Cloverhill yesterday which counsel said caused him some distress.

Garda Colleen Doherty told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that a number of men called to Mr Downey's Dublin home and told him he needed a hole on his end wall repaired as birds were getting into it. They initially quoted him €80 for the job but then said they need to refurbish the seal and it would cost €1,700.

Mr Downey agreed for the work to be done but the man then returned to him and said that there were problems with a flat roof out the back of the house. He didn't agree to any work being done on that roof and no price was agreed.

Gda Doherty said the men renewed the roof and again called to Mr Downey claiming he had signed a contract for the work on the flat roof. The man never saw the contract but demands were made for money.

Mr Downey realised he had been tricked and he was told he would have to pay VAT on the work too. The man was worried about getting in trouble for not paying the tax and agreed to pay it.

He was then told that he owed €4,800 in total after O'Brien and his accomplice claimed they had placed ridged tiles across his roof. Mr Downey made out a cheque for that amount to O'Brien who was later captured on CCTV footage cashing it in a nearby bank.

The men returned claiming that Mr Downey had only paid for half the roof and insisting that he hand over a further €4,800 or they would take the tiles off the roof. They then drove Mr Downey to a bank on the Long Mile Road and waited with him while he withdrew the cash.

Gda Doherty said the men returned a final time to Mr Downey's home four days later telling him that he owed a further €4,600 in VAT for the work they had carried out. They insisted on getting cash and again drove the man to the same bank where he withdrew the money and handed it over.

During the garda investigation that followed an engineer examined the gable end of Mr Downey's home and confirmed that it had been treated with plastic patching. He estimated that the work would have taken about two hours at a cost of €750 plus VAT.

He inspected two flat roofs which he said had been painted with reflective paint and estimated that Mr Downey should have been charged €200 plus VAT for this work.

Gda Doherty said O'Brien was identified from CCTV footage at the bank and officers went to his Limerick home to arrest him.

He made admissions in his interview with gardaí and acknowledged that the work would have cost no more than €1,000. He said it was “greed” that made him ask for more and told gardaí he would be able to get the the money back. The cash was never returned.

Mr McGillicuddy said his client's conduct was “reprehensible” and asked Judge Nolan to take into account his plea and a letter from O'Brien who said he wanted to give Mr Downey “some peace of mind”.

He said O'Brien, a married father of one, grew up in impoverished circumstances and was one of a family of 14 children.

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