An elderly woman from Bushey was driven to her bank by a “worker” from a tree felling company after being told the bill for tidying up her back garden had more than tripled, a court has been told.
The woman told St Albans crown court once the work started, she was told the cost for the job had jumped from £2000 to £6900, it was claimed.
The woman said when she offered to pay by cheque she was told the company didn’t accept them and that one of the workers could accompany her to her bank while she withdrew the money. However, it’s alleged that finding herself alone in the bank as the man waited outside, concerned staff who spoke to the woman notified the police who were able to arrest him.
As a result, 29 year old Michael Flegg of Nuxley Road, Belvedere in Kent is on trial pleading not guilty to conspiracy to defraud by charging the woman an inflated price for tree surgery services.
The court was told the true value for the work carried out at the elderly woman’s home had been estimated at just under £400.
Prosecutor Steven Attridge told the jury how on August 6, 2018 the married woman who lives in Bushey decided to telephone a tree surgery company after a flyer advertising their services had been pushed through her letter box a few days earlier.
She needed work doing in her back garden involving trees and hedges. Giving evidence to the court by way of a pre-recorded video interview with detectives, the woman said she spoke on the phone with a man and gave her details.
She said the man who sounded elderly told her it was his son who carried out the work and she would be contacted. The court was told within an hour of putting the phone down, the woman was contacted by the man who said his son had finished the “job” he was on and, as he was in the area, he could call round to see her.
She said half-an-hour later a man in his 40s arrived and she took him into the back garden to show him what she wanted done which involved work on trees and a hedge.
“He gave me an estimate for cash which was £2000 which was more than we were used to paying, but I didn’t think it was unreasonable.
The court was told the price went up from £2000 to £6900 and the woman told the jury: “I said we could pay on a cheque or a card and he said he didn’t deal in cheques and he said his (card) machine in the van was a bit temperamental.”
She said it was then agreed that she would drive to her bank in Borehamwood with the bank account details for the tree company and there she would transfer the money from her account to his.
Mr Attridge said the case against Mr Flegg was that he “was part and parcel” of the attempted fraud on the woman and a “trusted” part of what was going on. The prosecutor said the defendant had the chance in the car once he was away from the man who had been speaking to the woman, to tell the her what was going on, but chose not to.
“He was a trusted member of this conspiracy,” said Mr Attridge. The court was told than in an interview with the police on the day of his arrest, Mr Flegg claimed he had been approached by two men the day before in Eltham High Street and offered “cash in hand” work.
He said he was told to be at Billericay train station the following morning and he would be collected. Mr Flegg said he ended up in Bushey at the woman’s home where he began work in the garden. He said he was told he would have to go to the bank with the woman and when he refused he was threatened and told he would have his face smashed in if he didn’t.
Mr Flegg said he was given the bank account details for the tree services company and told to “make sure the transfer went ahead.” He claimed he didn’t know how much she was being charged and said had he known he would have told her to call the police.
At the bank he said he went back outside and waited for the woman taking the opportunity to phone his girlfriend