Elderly across Province ‘targeted by rogue traders’


An alleged rogue trader scam targeting elderly homeowners in Northern Ireland stretches across multiple police districts, a court heard on Thursday.

Five separate investigations into suspected high-value crime are under way, a judge was told.

Details emerged as three accused, including a father and son, sought to have their bail terms relaxed.

Elijah and Ray Lee, aged 49 and 21, are accused of fraud offences including an attempt to scam one woman out of £10,000 for building work.

The pair, both of Scrabo Road in Newtownards, appeared in the dock at Belfast Magistrates Court along with a third man, 21-year-old Miley McCann.

Elijah Lee faces charges of burglary, two counts of fraud by false representation, altering an electricity meter and dishonestly obtaining electricity. He is alleged to have dishonestly sought to obtain £10,000 and £2,500 for work that was to be carried out at homes this year.

He is also accused of stealing cash and a credit card from a house at Belair Avenue in Newtownards.

Ray Lee is accused of three counts of fraud by false representation on different dates this year. He is alleged to have pretended to be an employee for a home improvement firm offering to carry out building work.

One of the charges involves trying to expose a woman to a £10,000 loss, while another involves an attempt to defraud a man of £2,000. He is further accused of two burglaries involving the theft of £800 in cash, e400 and a bank card from the Belair Avenue address, and stealing £49 from a house in Newtownabbey.

McCann, from Birchwood in Bellaghy, Magherafelt, is charged with two counts of burglary in connection with the same properties.

With all three defendants currently out on bail, they applied to have their release terms varied, including permission for the Lees to drive a family car.

Defence lawyer Declan Quinn claimed the evidence against his clients has changed after witnesses failed to pick them out in an identification process.

He also predicted the case will be lengthy, revealing that 60 interview tapes have to be transcribed.

“The allegation is in relation to a series of frauds in respect of home owners,” he said.

Describing the Lees as a settled Traveller family, Mr Quinn added that they have lodged cash sureties of £3,000 and £2,500.

But opposing some of the bail variations, which included reduced reporting to police, an officer said they were to keep check on the defendants’ movements.

She disclosed: “There are currently five ongoing investigations in relation to this (case). It’s linked to high-value crime involving the targeting of the elderly and spanning multiple police districts.”

District judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to reduce Raymond Lee’s requirement to sign in with police from seven to three times a week.

But refusing the vehicle-driving application, she listed the case for a further mention next month.