Belfast Telegraph

Appeal over rogue traders: Probe police in hunt for other alleged victims of gang

By Deborah McAleese

At least 10 people have lodged complaints with police about an alleged gang of rogue builders who targeted the homes of the elderly.

However, detectives believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and fear there may be more victims of the gang, who allegedly cold-called at homes and offered to carry out building work.

The Northern Ireland companies at the centre of the police probe are Memphis Home Improvements and First Choice Home Improvements.

Detectives have widened their investigations into the dealings of the two companies and have called on anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by the alleged fraudsters to contact them.

Last week five people appeared in court charged in connection with the alleged scam. They were accused of targeting the elderly and vulnerable for "rogue trading work".

A detective constable told the court that the "general modus operandi" of the gang was that under the auspices of the building firms they cold-called at the homes of the "vulnerable and elderly".

They would offer to work but then told householders that much more needed to be carried out, Belfast Magistrates' Court was told.

Father and son Elijah (49) and Ray Lee (21) were accused of fraud offences including an attempt to dupe one woman out of £10,000 for building work.

Elijah Lee was also charged with burglary and stealing cash and a credit card from a house in Newtownards.

Ray Lee also faced charges of burglary and theft. A third man, Miley McCann (21), was charged with two counts of burglary.

A woman, 23-year-old Eilish Ferguson, was charged with fraud by false representation in that she allegedly duped a woman in her 80s to pay £2,500 for what a detective claimed was "minimal work".

On Saturday, a fifth alleged gang member – John Joseph Gavin (24) from Newtownards – was remanded into custody after he appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court accused of fraud.

Suspecting that there may be more victims, the PSNI yesterday issued an appeal for members of the public to contact them if they believe they have been fraudulently targeted by Memphis Home Improvements and First Choice Home Improvements.

A PSNI spokesman said detectives are available to speak to in Strandtown police station on the non-emergency number 101 or on 028 9090 1775.

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