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Man jailed for charging pensioner €14,000 for doing €1,000 worth of work

Thomas Coffey pleaded guilty to defrauding 81-year-old Sinclair Downey in September 2013.

11/2/2014. Criminal Courts of Justice Signs Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A CARLOW RESIDENT, who was part of a team of fraudsters that made an 81-year-old man pay over €14,000 for work carried out on his roof that was worth €1,000, has been jailed for 18 months.

Thomas Coffey (31) of Angler’s Walk, Carlow Town, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing €4,800 from Sinclair Downey at his Dublin home in September 2013.

Garda Colleen Doherty told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that Coffey and his accomplice, Patrick O’Brien called to the man’s home looking for further payment for unauthorised work carried out to Mr Downey’s roof.

They claimed that Mr Downey had only paid for half of the roof tiles that they had put on his house and insisted that he owed them a further €4,800. They then drove the man to the nearest bank and waited with him while he withdrew the cash from an ATM.

In repeating this routine the men extracted over €14,000 in total from Mr Downey.

Coffey and O’Brien could be seen on CCTV footage from the bank waiting with Mr Sinclair and then receiving the cash from him.

During the garda investigation that followed, an engineer examined the gable end of Mr Downey’s home and confirmed that it had been treated with plastic patching. He estimated that the work would have taken about two hours at a cost of €750 plus VAT.

He inspected two flat roofs which he said had been painted with reflective paint and estimated that Mr Downey should have been charged €200 plus VAT for this work.

Coffey was arrested at his then Kerry home in Ballyspillane, Killarney on 4 November, 2013. He later claimed in the interview that he had been asked to collect the money on behalf of someone else.

When gardaí informed him that an examination of his mobile phone showed a call to Mr Downey’s landline that September, Coffey admitted his role in the fraud.

Coffey’s 19 previous convictions include four for theft, some of which relate to a similar type of offending involving charging money from people claiming that legitimate work had been done on their home.


O’Brien (32) of Convent Road, Abbeyfeale, Limerick, was jailed for four years last July after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to stealing €14,200 from Mr Downey.

His 29 previous convictions include 12 for theft, some of which involve a similar pattern of making elderly people pay over the odds for work carried out on their homes. He is due to be sentenced in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court later this year for a similar offence.

Laurence Masterson BL, defending Coffey, told Judge Martin Nolan his client had been treated as a psychiatric patient in Kerry General Hospital suffering from stress and anxiety around the time of the offence.

He said he did, however, accept that what he did was wrong and was remorseful for his actions.

Judge Nolan described the offence as “an odious crime” and said the men took advantage of a vulnerable person. He said Coffey deserved a custodial sentence before he jailed him for 18 months.

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Sonya McClean

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