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Harpenden woman victim of roof-repair rogue traders
An elderly lady from Harpenden became the victim of a gang of rogue traders who lied that her bungalow roof needed repairing, forcing her to hand over more than £12,000, it was claimed in court today (Wednesday).
Luton Crown Court was then told the 74-year-old was able to turn the tables on the men when she was asked to stump up even more money. When it was arranged for more work to be carried out on the roof, she didn't tell them the police would be waiting.
As a result Mathew Baness, 30, from Luton and Mark Brock, 29, from Eaton Bray, were duly arrested when they turned up at the pensioner's home in Harpenden on June 29, 2011.
The pair pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and engaging in an unfair commercial practice.
Prosecuter Andrew Johnson, told the court the case "was about rogue traders".
He said: "It's about the obtaining of a great deal of money from an elderly lady by telling her untruths and putting significant pressure on her."
Mr Johnson said the defendants were not the only people to have been involved in conning the woman.
He described the victim as a 74-year-old who lived on her own and who, on a day in early June 2011, answered her doorbell to find a young man who told her there was a problem with her roof.
"He told her the eaves at the front of the bungalow needed work done. She went outside with him and he showed her," he said.
The prosecutor said the woman was told there was a risk of water getting through the roof and into her property. The young man went on to tell her he could do the necessary work for her over two or three days.
The court heard the woman agreed to him doing the work and he came back later with a man called "Danny."
Initially, said the prosecutor, the woman was told the price would be fixed at £4,000.
Over several days a number of men appeared to be working on the roof, and she was then asked for two further payments resulting in a total of £12,300.
The court was told that gradually the victim began to have concerns about the work the men had claimed to have done.
As a result, she spoke to her neighbour - a retired fire surveyor - who went to inspect the roof and quickly came to the opinion that nothing had been done.
Another neighbour also had concerns about the work being carried out at the time and had made a note of the registration number of the van the gang were using.
Mr Johnson said the woman received another visit from one of the workers who said her roof was "sagging" and more work needed to be done. He told her the cost would be £3,000.
Later she got a telephone call from a man claiming that in fact the work could be carried out for less than £3,000.
Mr Johnson said the woman agreed to the work and it was arranged to be carried out on June 29, 2011.
The pensioner then contacted Herts Police who deployed a number of officers in and around her home on the day.
The jury was told that at 12.45pm that day, a grey Ford Transit van was spotted in the area and a short while later Mr Baness knocked at the door.
He was duly arrested and claimed he had called by to collect £600 on behalf of someone called Simon.
In the van, officers found Mr Brock and he too was arrested.
The jury was told that a surveyor then carried out an inspection of the roof and came to the conclusion that a large part of the work the woman had been told needed to be done, had not been done.
Mr Johnson said the surveyor also concluded the work that had been done was sub standard and what she had paid was "grossly excessive".
The prosecutor said the defendants' mobile phones were also examined by the police and linked them to the victim, as well as being in the vicinity of the woman's home during June 2011.
The case continues.