An elderly dementia sufferer’s home may have been deliberately damaged by suspected rogue traders trying to get her to pay up to £6,000 for roof repairs, the High Court heard today.
Prosecutors claimed one of the gang targeted the 81-year-old Co Down woman just days after being bailed on nearly identical alleged offences against another pensioner.
Details emerged as the 23-year-old man accused of masterminding last month’s scam was ordered to remain in custody.
Charles Ward, of Gortview Park in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, denies charges of fraud by false representation, possessing leaflets, identity badges and invoices in connection with fraud, and acting as a pedlar without a certificate.
He faces further counts of failing to give a consumer notice of their right to cancel, and engaging in aggressive and misleading commercial practice.
Ward was said to be part of a three-man team who called at the woman’s home in Warrenpoint on July 29.
Crown lawyer Adrian Higgins revealed the alleged victim, who lives there with her 95-year-old husband, is considered vulnerable due to her dementia.
He claimed Ward tried to pressure her into having roof tiles replaced and power-washing carried out.
She was initially quoted £1,600 for the work, only for the price to rise to £3,000, the court heard.
According to the prosecution the woman received no paperwork and was not advised of her rights.
Mr Higgins claimed the workmen informed her they had noticed other damage to the roof and would fix it for another £3,000.
“She refused, saying she couldn’t afford it and wanted to speak to her son, but they told her they would return the next day to conduct the work,” the barrister contended.
The pensioner then allegedly received a series of phone calls seeking payment for the power-washing services.
Police alerted by the woman’s son arrested Ward and one of his co-accused when they returned to her home on August 1.
The court was told an independent evaluator assessed the work carried out as coming nowhere near the prices quoted.
Mr Higgins also claimed CCTV footage appeared to show men physically removing roof tiles.
“It’s suspected that damage was caused by them in an attempt to create a repair job that would not otherwise have been required,” he said.
Opposing bail, the prosecutor confirmed Ward had just been released from custody on JUly 27 for the same type of alleged fraud offences against an elderly woman in Bangor, Co Down.
“Police believe he’s the mastermind behind the operation,” Mr Higgins added.
Defence counsel Sean Mullan countered that his client strenuously denies the charges.
Suggesting the case could come down to a contractual dispute, he stressed: “These men have carried out work, it’s not a situation where they have taken money and then disappeared into the night.”
Mr Mullan further argued that another Dundalk-based firm had previously carried out work on the Warrenpoint pensioners’ home, raising issues about when any damage was caused.
Refusing bail, however, Mr Justice O’Hara held there was a risk of further offending and cited the need to “protect the vulnerable and elderly”.