Cork man in court over alleged roof-repair scam in Netherlands

Dutch authorities claim ‘group of Travellers’ defrauded number of senior citizens

A Cork-born man has been brought before the High Court over an alleged roof-repair scam in the Netherlands committed against "several, mainly senior" Dutch citizens.

Denis Harrington (41) is wanted in the Netherlands for 10 alleged offences of fraud or attempted fraud between 2014 and 2015.

Mr Harrington was arrested and brought before the High Court on Monday on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Dutch authorities earlier this year.

According to Dutch authorities, “several, mainly senior, people were approached by a group of Irish Travellers.

“The people were caught off guard with the message that necessary work had to be done on the roofs of their houses,” the warrant said.

“Before they knew and before strict deals had been concluded, the ladders were against the outside of the walls, the Irish men were on the roof and had started working, which meant roof tiles were removed and battens taken off. In some cases damage was done and leaks were caused purposefully,” Dutch authorities state.

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said she was satisfied Mr Harrington was the person in respect of whom the warrant had been issued. She remanded him in custody to appear before the court again on December 7th. He is currently serving a prison sentence in Ireland, the court heard.

According to the warrant, the Irish men used false names and submitted offers under fictitious company names.

“In many cases the agreements were not kept, after which they left without a trace,” the warrant said. “In a number of cases, the money was paid in cash, but they also used bank account numbers for money to be transferred. As soon as the amount hit the account, it was withdrawn. The group made use of straw men.

“Other persons were approached who had already been confronted and harmed by the Irish Travellers, and they were told that indeed something had gone wrong and that they could get their money back. However, first an amount of money had to be deposited.”

Expensive repairs

Dutch authorities state that on March 19th, 2014, two men told a Ms Duynstee that the roof of her house was in bad condition. “Not being an expert herself, she thought that indeed there might be problems. While she was talking to the men, one of them went up the roof and told her what was wrong. The repairs would cost €7,000.

“Ms Duynstee was caught off guard,” the warrant states. She felt “under pressure” and “that it was too late to say no to them. Thereupon she had gone to the bank with the men in their car and had given them €5,000.”

Ms Duynstee’s daughter took a photo of the spokesman for the Irish men. This photograph showed similarities with the police photograph of Denis Harrington, the warrant stated.

In early 2014 a group of Irish men came to the home of a Mr Westerhoff with an offer to clean the facade. Mr Westerhoff agreed to pay €8,500, which he transferred. The men worked “for about two hours, after which they left never to be seen again.”

The following January, an English-speaking man presented himself to the Westerhoff home falsely claiming that he had been hired by Axa Insurance. "To get his money back, Westerhoff had to transfer money. First he was told to transfer €8,500, and when he made it clear he was not ready to do so, the man told him to transfer €5,500. Then Westerhoff was called by a man who spoke Dutch and who presented himself as being somebody from ING Bank."

According to the warrant, when a police photograph of Denis Harrington was shown to Mr Westerhoff, he recognised this man as the person who had come to his door in 2015 “with the Axa story”.

The warrant listed several other similar stories.