Belfast Telegraph

Terminally ill Northern Ireland man charged £1,750 for hour's gardening work, court heard

By Alan Erwin

Rogue traders charged a terminally-ill man caring for his dementia-suffering mother £1,750 for an hour's gardening work, the High Court heard on Wednesday.

Prosecutors also claimed those involved in last week's scam distributed leaflets to other homes in Co Down offering a special rate for old age pensioners.

Details emerged as bail was granted to a 43-year-old man accused of being at the centre of the deception.

Bernard Larkin, of Artabrackagh Road in Portadown, Co Armagh, faces a charge of fraud by false representation.

He allegedly turned up with two others at the victim's home in Comber on May 31 offering to carry out gardening work.

The 59-year-old man who lives there with his elderly mother is described as vulnerable and terminally-ill.

He wasn't wearing glasses and mistook the callers for his regular gardener, according to the prosecution.

One of the men was said to have replied yes when asked, 'Is that you Ivan?'.

Crown lawyer David McClean said: "They carried out minor gardening and maintenance work for approximately an hour.

"Then a male came to the door and requested payment of £1,750 in cash - that payment was handed over to them."

A phone number linked to Larkin was discovered on leaflets distributed in the area offering similar services, the court heard.

He was arrested with a co-accused the next day when police stopped a van on the Sydenham Bypass heading towards Belfast.

Officers found more leaflets in the vehicle and seized £760 in cash from Larkin, a judge was told.

A bank book uncovered during searches at his home showed a £1,000 cash lodgment the previous day.

Opposing bail, Mr McClean argued: "He's been doing this type of business, gardening and odd jobs, handing out leaflets saying OAPs will get a special rate."

Mr Justice O'Hara responded: "They certainly did get a special rate - £1,750 an hour."

Defence counsel Barry Gibson accepted a prima facie case has been established against his client.

Mr Gibson stressed that Larkin's van has been impounded and bank account frozen.

Granting bail, the judge emphasised his decision was based on being able to impose conditions to prevent any further alleged "appalling" offences.

He pointed out: "It looks (if the allegations are true) as if he's been caught red-handed defrauding a terminally-ill man looking after his mother suffering from dementia."

As part of the release conditions he banned Larkin being in goods vehicles or any involvement in home or garden improvement work.

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