Bogus workman jailed for defrauding elderly homeowners

Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
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A YOUNG man – part of a gang of bogus workmen – who ripped off elderly people of thousands of pounds has been jailed for 30 months.

Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC, sitting in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, yesterday told 28-year old Darren Baxter that what had been done was a “callous, selfish and despicable course of conduct”.

Baxter, a prisoner in Low Moss, had pled guilty previously to, while acting with others, defrauding three people, aged between 85 and 77 years, of £18,000 and attempting to defraud a couple in their 80s of £2000. The offences, committed between November 16 and December 15, last year, occurred in Edinburgh, West Calder and Glasgow.

The couple, who lived in Edinburgh, were told by the gang that their roof had woodworm and were shown a piece of loft insulation with maggots in it. Fiscal Depute, Anthony Steele, told Sheriff Welsh that the husband was suspicious and said he wanted another opinion. The roof was inspected and he was told there was nothing wrong with it.

On the same day, Baxter and another man, told a 77-year old Edinburgh householder there was a loose tile on his roof and he was shown a piece of wood with maggots in it. The other man told the householder it would cost £1800 to carry out the work, but only £1000 if he paid cash. The man paid the £1000, but when he later went to check the roof he discovered nothing had been done.

The third victim, who lived in West Calder, was a widower suffering from diabetes and prostate cancer. He was shown wood shavings with white worms and asked for payment up-front for repair work. Over an eight-day period he was driven to a bank to withdraw money for the purchase of materials. The Fiscal said the victim was told not to say anything to bank staff, but if asked, was to say it was for his grandchildren. Mr Steele said the bank manager became suspicious and contacted the police. There was no woodworm or structural failures to the roof.

The fourth victim, an 85-year old Glasgow householder, was told there was a leak in her roof. She was told a cheque was not acceptable and she was driven to a bank and withdrew £1500. Later, the woman’s daughter went to check the loft and found nothing wrong and no repairs had been done.

Defence solicitor Hugh Trainor said his client appreciated the anguish that had been caused to his victims. Baxter, he said, had a drug problem and had found it difficult to extricate himself from the others involved.

Since being in custody, he had come to terms with the drug problem and extricated himself from his “erstwhile employers”.