Belfast Telegraph

Gang duped elderly over home work, court hears

By Paul Higgins

Four people police believe are part of a Northern Ireland-wide crime gang targeting the elderly and vulnerable for "rogue trading work" have appeared at two separate courts.

At Belfast Magistrates Court, father and son Elijah and Ray Lee, aged 49 and 21, were remanded in custody on charges linked to an alleged scam targeting elderly homeowners in Northern Ireland.

They are accused of fraud offences including an attempt to dupe one woman out of £10,000 for building work.

The pair appeared in the dock along with a third man, 21-year-old Miley McCann, following a series of arrests in Holywood, Co Down, on Tuesday.

Elijah Lee, from Scrabo Road, Newtownards, faces charges of burglary, two counts of fraud by false representation, altering an electricity meter and dishonestly obtaining electricity.

The allegations against him are that he dishonestly sought to obtain £10,000 and £2,500 for work that was to be carried out at homes this year.

He is also accused of stealing cash and a credit card from a house at Belair Avenue in Newtownards.

Ray Lee, a gardener with the same address as his father, is accused of three counts of fraud by false representation on different dates this year.

He is alleged to have pretended to be an employee for a home improvement firm offering to carry out building work.

One of the charges involves trying to expose a woman to a £10,000 loss, while another involves an attempt to defraud a man of £2,000.

He is further accused of two burglaries involving the theft of £800 in cash, €400 and a bank card from the Belair Avenue address, and stealing £49 from a house in Newtownabbey.

Third defendant McCann, a full-time student from Birchwood in Bellaghy, Magherafelt, is charged with two counts of burglary in connection with the same properties and remanded in custody.

Appearing in the dock of Newtownards Magistrates Court, 23-year-old Eilish Ferguson, believed to be the wife of Ray Lee, was charged with one count of fraud by false representation on June 16 this year in that she allegedly duped a woman in her 80s to pay £2,500 for what a detective claimed was "minimal work".

The detective constable said he believed he could connect Ferguson to the charge and in objecting to her release on bail, outlined how police fear that the incident she was arrested for "is the tip of the iceberg".

He claimed that the "general modus operandi" of the gang was that under the auspices of a building firm, initially calling themselves Memphis Home Improvements and latterly First Choice Improvements, "cold calling" on the "vulnerable and elderly" for a small amount of work to be done and then telling them they needed much more done.

Ferguson was freed on bail.

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