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Predatory fraudster stole women’s life savings in elaborate pest-control scam 

A predatory fraudster will serve an extra 12 months in prison for charging two elderly and vulnerable victims more than £20,000 in an elaborate, pest-control scam, which would normally cost £48 to remedy.

September 28th, 2021

Richard McCarthy, 28, from St Mellons, Cardiff, was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court last Friday, September 24th, following a guiltyRichard McCarthy Sep 2021 plea to two offences of fraud at a previous hearing in September 2020.McCarthy who is currently on remand, serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence for burglary, had his jail term extended by a year for the new offences.

The court heard that ‘two elderly and vulnerable women’ were targeted in the fraud, to fix an alleged rat infestation that was completely invented by McCarthy.The fraudster targeted the first victim, a 71-year-old woman who lives alone, in January 2019 by knocking on her door posing as someone called ‘Richard’, offering to repair a roof tile at her property. This was the beginning of an 8-day fraud - where the victim had her life savings of £11,400 taken from her.

While working on the broken roof tile, McCarthy claimed to have uncovered a rat infestation in the victim’s loft and explained that it could be treated by ‘spraying the loft’ at a cost of £2,600. The victim was told that a private pest control company would charge between £3,000 and £5,000 for this work. Cardiff Council confirmed that it would only charge £48 to remove an infestation.

After ‘spraying’ the loft, McCarthy then continued to visit the victim each day, to claim that further work was required to fix the rat infestation, including:

  • A second re-spray of the loft at a cost £2,500;
  • A further £2,300 to repair roof felt he claimed had been chewed through by rodents;
  • £2,000 for a third treatment of the loft;
  • Followed by a final payment of £2,000 for sealant, to repair any damage caused by the rats.

The payments were demanded separately and the victim was followed to the bank each time a payment was paid. After the work was supposedly completed, the roof started leaking, so she contacted ‘Richard’ to get it resolved, but was told it would cost a further £1,500 to finish the work.

At this point the pensioner refused to pay any more.In a Victim Impact Assessment read to the court, the vulnerable pensioner said her life savings were going to be given to her disabled daughter. She said that she asked for her money back but this was refused. She also said she was made to feel ‘ashamed’ about the alleged rat infestation, so she paid the money.

Cardiff’s Pest Control visited the property during the investigation and confirmed, in their opinion, that there hadn’t been any rodent activity at the property and that there was not a method of treatment using spraying to eliminate rats. In the evidence, it was made clear that a Cardiff resident would only be charged £48 to deal with a rat problem at their property and the council would attend up to four times to deal with the issue.

An assessment by a housing surveyor also confirmed that no work had been carried out at the property and the original roof tile that was identified by McCarthy had not been replaced. Between January 16th and February 6th 2019, McCarthy had called the victim 65 times and sent her 44 text messages. No details, contract or paperwork was provided for the work that apparently took place. In the second case brought before court, a 69 year old pensioner was cold-called at her home by a person called ‘Adam’ claiming to be an environmental health officer, and was told that she had a rat infestation in her back garden.

The victim let McCarthy and a workman into her garden and within a very short time the worker shouted, ‘I have got one’, waving a rat in the air. The victim could see that the rat that had apparently been taken out of her drain was bone dry, but was told by McCarthy that all the brick and cement would have to be taken up in her back garden to access her drains. The victim told McCarthy that he wasn’t doing that, as the drains in the property ran from the back under the house to the front of the property. 

McCarthy explained that he would return the following day to carry out the work but didn’t provide a quotation. The following day he arrived back at the property with a worker and stayed for an hour-and-a-half in the back garden before leaving.The following day on January 15th 2019, the victim started receiving phone calls from 9am. When she was able to answer the phone, she spoke to a person called ‘Jack’ who informed her that someone would attend her property the following day to collect the £2,000 owed. She went to the bank to withdraw the money.

From January through to April 2019, this happened on eight different occasions and a total of £10,400 was paid. No work had been carried out and there was no contract or paperwork provided. At the end of April 2019, the victim received a phone call informing her that that the work that had taken place at her property, had taken place on the wrong street; and she would receive a bankers draft of £15,000 plus compensation. To receive this money she had to pay an additional £1,500 up front but she explained that she had no more money to give. On May 13th, when the police were at the victim’s property she received 15 calls in the space of 45 minutes asking her if she had ‘any joy’ getting the further money. 

Richard McCarthy was then interviewed in Parc Prison on February 18th 2020 and gave a ‘no comment’ interview to all questions asked. Defence Barrister, Kevin Seale, acting on behalf of Mr McCarthy explained that his client has had drastic changes in his personal circumstances since the offending took place, as both his sister and grandparents had died since he was in prison.

In mitigation, it was claimed that there were people higher up the command that were involved in these matters and that his client had not financially gained from the offending and didn’t live a luxury lifestyle.Upon his release, it was claimed that he would return to his family, as he wasn’t ‘brought up in this way’ and that he apologises to all the people involved. 

Sentencing, Recorder IWL Jones summed up the case by saying, “You took advantage of two elderly and vulnerable women and these are serious and mean offences.“Your victims were asked over a repeatedly long period of time for money for work that had not been done and they were made to feel scared. You constantly requested more and more money, taking advantage of these old vulnerable women. You had a significant effect on your victims and no money has been re-paid whatsoever. A message has to go out loud and clear that we will not tolerate this predatory behaviour.”

The court heard that Richard McCarthy is a prolific offender who began offending in 2012. Since then McCarthy has been charged with a range of offences including false representation, conspiracy, criminal damage, violence, burglary and stalking.

Cllr Michael Michael, Cabinet Member responsible for Shared Regulatory Services, which was the Prosecuting Authority in this case, said:

“People who target elderly vulnerable people and de-fraud them of their life savings are the lowest of the low.“This is unscrupulous, despicable and sickening behaviour. Richard McCarthy’s criminal record speaks volumes, and I hope the details given in his defence are true, so we do not have to deal with him again. He now has a little longer in prison to reflect on his crimes.”