A ROGUE trader who evaded police for eight months after fleecing pensioners for unnecessary repairs has finally been snared – and fined a mere £200.
Francis McGinley was the ringleader of a firm that targeted elderly or vulnerable residents and pressured them to pay for needless work on their homes.
One of his victims, pensioner Bill Buckner from Kirkliston, told how McGinley began digging up his driveway despite being told to leave it alone.
The 74-year-old, who suffers from serious health problems, said the rogue trader had tried to coerce him into paying for repairs before tearing up his front yard without permission.
He said: “I wasn’t feeling well that day at all so I went into the house and told my wife Janet what had happened.
“She looked outside and they were digging it up. They took up 26 slabs and they broke them up there and then.”
And he added: “They were forcing us into getting them to replace them. Janet went out and read the riot act with them. All she got was lip.”
It was when the police were called that the men fled.
Mr Buckner said the incident kick-started an eight-month police investigation that saw detectives trace the gang to the west of Scotland, the Scottish Borders and finally Newcastle where McGinley was apprehended.
It is understood the probe centred on sightings of their van’s number plate.
McGinley later pleaded guilty to two offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act. He was fined £200 and ordered to pay £100 compensation to Mr Buckner.
Today, the wronged pensioner said the sentence had been a “slap on the wrist” while senior MSPs have described the case as a “travesty of justice”.
Mr Buckner, a grandfather-of-five, said: “The thing that stuck in my craw was that he had to pay me just £100 and it cost me £350 to get the path restored.
“I thought the sentence was very light. I was so angry about that – the fine should have been four figures.
“These are the kind of circumstances that really annoy people because the criminals are the ones who get off the lightest.”
Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan branded the sentence “too lenient” and said the bogus workmen should be forced to pay the full cost of the botched repairs – plus a £1000 fine.
“We need a sentence that sends out a tougher message and dissuades other bogus tradesmen and chancers from preying on the vulnerable and elderly,” he said.
A drive to root out so-called doorstep crime across Edinburgh continues.
McGinley, who had been trading as Platinum Driveways, was caught as part of Operation Aristotle, a Police and Trading Standards blitz on doorstep crime.
Councillor Cammy Day, community safety leader, said: “This is another good result for Operation Aristotle and shows we will not tolerate rogue traders in Edinburgh. If anyone has any concerns they would like to report or thinks they may have been targeted by a bogus workman, I would urge them to get in touch with Trading Standards or Police Scotland.”
Detective Inspector Stuart Harkness, who is leading the drive, said: “These people target the elderly and vulnerable members of our community and we would appeal for people to be vigilant in relation to neighbours.
“I would also urge anyone who has any information about this type of criminality to contact us on 101. You should never be pressurised into having work done on your home without getting competing quotes from tradespeople you have selected and invited to your home.”