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French fall prey to Irish tarmac gangs

FRENCH police have received 450 alerts of tarmac scams involving Irish conmen, new reports show.

Most of the scams involved a gang operating across Europe.

It is believe that as many as several hundred Irish crooks -- previously linked to Rathkeale, Co Limerick -- targeted vulnerable home-owners by offering them cheap tarring work.

The conmen fool their victims by quoting a low figure for tarring their driveway. They then complete the botched work in a couple of hours.

At the end of the day, they increase their bills and call for reinforcement to intimidate the home-owners into paying them several thousand euro in cash.

By the time police are alerted, they have disappeared.

The incidents also tend to coincide with a rise of burglaries in the neighbourhood.

According to Le Figaro newspaper, the money is often laundered in France, where it is invested in fake businesses.

The newspaper also noted that while this phenomenon began in the 1990s, it only started expanding in the last six years.

The French Central Office for the Fight Against Illegal Work (OCLTI) said that "no region"was spared by these scams.

However, it is believed that they are prevalent in the north, west and east of the country.

A young woman from the Loire region explained how her 62-year-old father became a victim.

"A blonde guy with blue eyes, rather well-dressed, presented himself one day at the farm," the young woman, who only wished to be known as Sarah, told the newspaper.

"He was speaking with a strong (Irish) accent.

"He said he was working for a company that was tarring a motorway a few kilometres away, and he wanted to get rid of some of the tar he had left before he travelled back to Ireland.

"He targeted us well, he knew that people in the agriculture industry tend to grab opportunities when they present themselves.

"His offer -- €8 per square metre instead of €30 -- was very attractive -- our gear was at the time parked on 1,000 sqm of hard-packed surface.


"Without our consent, six or seven guys arrived with construction hardware the following day in the late afternoon so that they could be sure police wouldn't intervene as we wouldn't be able to see their work at night.

"After they levelled our terrain, they merely spread some gravel on it.

"It took them two hours in total and we received a €7,200 bill that needed to be paid straight away.

"My father, who is 62 years old, was alone. He was surrounded by workers who were pressurising him.

"He didn't have this amount in cash, so he gave them a cheque. We realised that they had scammed us and we filed a complaint in time for them not to cash the cheque."