Australia deports Irish conmen over shoddy house-repair spree

Mon, Aug 27, 2012, 01:00

THE NEW South Wales department of fair trading has released details of how dozens of travelling conmen, most of whom were Irish, were forced to leave Australia following a crime spree of shoddy house repairs.

Since last October, 39 men were either deported after being convicted of various offences, or fled the country once they knew the authorities were looking for them.

The people involved were part of organised Irish and British crime gangs who travelled to Australia intent on tricking homeowners into unnecessary repair jobs on their houses. The “repairs”, such as painting and guttering, were then carried out using shoddy material and workmanship, or not done at all.

In a typical case, a 70-year-old woman in Sydney’s exclusive Double Bay area gave an Irish man cheques worth a total of Aus$35,000 (€29,110). The man, who claimed to be a roofer, cashed $23,000 before fleeing the country. The roof was not repaired.

In another example, an Irishman convinced three elderly couples on Sydney’s well-to-do north shore that he was an engineer. After booking his services to do repair work on their homes they each paid him at least $4,000. All the work done was faulty, but complaints by the people he duped helped lead to his capture. The Irish national was fined $90,091 and deported.

New South Wales’s fair trading minister, Anthony Roberts, has overseen a crackdown on conmen over the past 10 months. As a result, 35 people have been prosecuted for more than 120 breaches of the law, and fines totalling more than $300,000 have been issued.

Mr Roberts says he will be working with Irish authorities and media to warn anyone thinking of coming to Australia to carry out similar scams that they will be caught and deported.

“The vast majority of Irish people in Australia, probably 99 per cent, are great people, but for those few bad apples that come here to rip us off, they are the scourge of the modern western world,” Mr Roberts told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“They don’t have any qualms about ripping off the elderly or the vulnerable and see nothing wrong or immoral about how they operate or the fact that they are very dangerous and violent.”

The gangs are said to travel to Australia in the southern hemisphere’s spring and summer months. With just days left in Australia’s winter, the authorities are braced for a new influx of conmen.

“It might be a $10,000 job but they say they can do it for $2,000 and then they use cheap water-based paint that will be running down the roof the first time it rains,” Mr Roberts said.

“They then tell the poor elderly homeowner that it will actually be $5,000 and they go from two nice smiling Irishmen to turning up with five threatening individuals who take you down to the ATM to get the money.”