A rogue trader who aggressively overcharged a pensioner for work around her home has been ordered to pay £5,000 compensation.
John McGinley, 24, was also handed a four-month suspended prison sentence and fined £1,000 for his part in the fraud committed at the address in Belfast.
The city’s magistrates court heard the victim, understood to be a woman in her seventies, handed over £7,000 after being targeted earlier this year.
A defence lawyer argued that McGinley, of Legahory Caravan Camp in Craigavon, Co Armagh, was almost completely illiterate and claimed a teenage co-accused was the driving force behind the scam.
The pair were said to have called at the woman’s house on March 12, asking if she wanted any power-washing and offering to carry out drainage work.
Written quotes were provided before they returned again the next day and suggested doing further jobs.
“The victim said she lost track of their offers,” a prosecution lawyer told the court.
Later they charged £7,000, with the money subsequently handed over. It was never recovered.
According to the prosecution the scam also involved going onto her roof to point out allegedly cracked tiles.
She received a quote of several thousand pounds to make those repairs and carry out guttering, but having asked to think it over she contacted police.
Officers arrested McGinley and recovered flyers from a vehicle being used.
He was convicted of two counts of fraud by false representation, criminal damage to the victim’s roof tiles, possessing articles in connection with the fraud, engaging in aggressive commercial practice, and providing a misleading quotation.
Defence counsel Johnathan Browne told the court his client has limited reading and writing skills.
Referring to the teenage co-accused, the barrister contended: “He’s the person who carried out the negotiations or business undertakings with this lady.”
Because some work had been undertaken at the victim’s home, the level of restitution was set at £5,000.
Mr Browne accepted McGinley’s role in the joint enterprise, but argued that it would be wrong to make him pay the full amount.
He revealed that the defendant is a member of the Traveller community who plans to move to Scotland to join the family horse-breeding business.
However, the district judge ordered McGinley to pay the full £5,000 compensation, as well as the fines, and suspended the prison term for three years.