A rogue trader who tricked a vulnerable Borehamwood man out of £1,000 was banned from cold-calling for the next two years on Friday, January 27.
James MacCarthy, 31, from Park Royal, London was also given a two-year jail sentence suspended for 24 months, told to carry out 250 hours’ unpaid work and do up to 30 rehabilitation activity days.
Prosecutor Daniel Higgins told St Albans Crown Court that the victim, who is in his 70s, was very vulnerable due to learning difficulties and limited vision.
“He had been the victim of other rogue trader frauds since 2012, losing over £100,0000 for supposed repairs and renovation on his modest property,” he said.
As a result, a smart camera was fitted to the inside of his door and a speaker was installed to pick up callers’ conversations.
On Monday, March 25, 2019, James MacCarthy, who he had never met before, cold-called him with another male called Mark, offering to do gardening work.
The victim told them he did not need any gardening, but said his gate needed mending.
Mr Higgins said: “He was told a leaking pipe was causing flooding and concrete should be put down.
“He asked how much and was told £18,500. He was asked for a £1,000 deposit.”
The victim had £400 on him and withdrew £600 the next day. The money was collected by MacCarthy.
On Wednesday, March 27, McCarthy and another male went back and asked for £10,000 as a part payment. A cheque was made out to MacCarthy but that was ripped up and another was made in the name of Hallmark, a company he had set up in Colney Heath Lane, St Albans.
The police were alerted by the call company on Saturday, March 30 and MacCarthy was arrested. The cheque was not cashed.
An expert was instructed by the police. He found that most of the work quoted on an invoice was unnecessary. A new gate had been provided, but had not been required.
No drainage work was needed and the pavement did not need to be lifted. The limited amount of work needed to repair the gatepost was put at £477 plus VAT. The work carried out was valued at £239 plus VAT.
MacCarthy told the police he had set up Hallmark Building Services two months previously. He said he had no qualifications, but had learnt from his father.
He appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to fraud between 24 March and 31 March 2019. He had one previous conviction from 2013 for burglary and criminal damage.
Defending, Jonas Milner said: “He is deeply ashamed. He was unaware this was an individual who had previously been a victim.”
He said MacCarthy had told him he had made no profit and had posted £1000 through the victim’s letter box.
MacCarthy, a father of two, was now working in building for his family, he said.
Recorder Andrew Johnson told him: “Conduct of his nature is despicable and the courts cannot tolerate it. Nobody should be exploited in their own home. The vulnerable have to be given particular protection from those who exploit them for their gain.”