Four fraudsters who duped vulnerable victims in Ellesmere Port and Wirral into handing over thousands of pounds have been sentenced.
Patrick McDonagh, 38, of no fixed address, was sentenced in July for conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.
The three remaining fraudsters were sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Thursday 15 December.
The sentences are as follows:
- Patrick McDonagh was handed 45 months imprisonment for conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering
- Judy Greene, 50, of Maesquarre Road, Carmarthenshire, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for money laundering
- Kevin Greene, 56, of Maesquarre Road, Carmarthenshire was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for money laundering
- Robert Lloyd, 33, of Fford Canton, Bagillt was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for 18 months for money laundering
The court heard how the McDonagh was the head of the fraudulent enterprise – using a well-known website, that allows the public to look for tradespeople, to target vulnerable victims.
In August 2020, an elderly woman from Ellesmere Port posted an advert on the site asking for recommendations for garden maintenance work.
McDonagh contacted the victim under the name Woodcare Ltd and convinced her that she needed a new block-paved driveway.
Over three weeks the woman parted with £61,800 – and was directed to send the money to two separate bank accounts registered to Robert Lloyd and husband and wife – Judy and Kevin Greene.
Once the work had been completed, a concerned member of the public contacted Cheshire Police and an extensive investigation began.
Officers then uncovered how another victim, who was registered blind, ended up handing over £17,800 to the scammer for maintenance work at his address in Bromborough, Wirral, which included no more than basic weeding of the garden, repointing of a wall and jet washing of a patio.
The victim was told that he required new damp course at the property and McDonagh said he had installed this and was covered by the price.
Officers asked a chartered surveyor to attend both the two victim’s addresses to provide an estimation for the work that was completed.
He assessed the work at the Ellesmere Port home found that the work was no more than £6,800 with the work being substandard – nowhere near the £61,800 figure.
The work at the Bromborough home was estimated as costing a maximum £1,600 – he also found that the damp course had never been undertaken.
McDonagh was found to be using bank accounts of associates Lloyd and the Greene family to launder the money from his victims. This money was quickly withdrawn as cash and used to purchase high-value vehicles such as a Ford Ranger which were quickly sold on.
He even treated his family to a luxury holiday in Antalya, Turkey however this proved to be his downfall as he booked the holiday using an unregistered mobile phone which was printed on his Woodcare Ltd flyers.
All were arrested and subsequently charged with fraud offences.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, officers from Victoria in Australia contacted Cheshire Constabulary stating that McDonagh was suspected in defrauding a vulnerable woman out of $1,000,000 – her entire lifesavings.
He had befriended the woman in between January 2020 and January 2021 – convincing her that he needed a loan to set up his business down under.
Even when he returned to the UK, he continued to coax money from the woman, using excuses such as needing to pay for his mother’s funeral and that he had been arrested and was unable to obtain a new visa to travel and needed to ‘bribe officials’ to get back into Australia.
Due to the catalogue of evidence put forward, all the accused pleaded guilty to the offences put to them. A boy, who was aged 16 at the time, was cautioned for conspiracy to commit fraud.
Detective Constable Chris O’Connor, from Ellesmere Port CID, who led the investigation, said: “This was a significant fraud against three vulnerable people.
“Through one man’s deceit, greed, and determination to prey on the vulnerable in society to line his own pockets the financial and emotional consequences each victim has suffered has been catastrophic and life changing.
“The prison sentence given to McDonagh should serve as a warning to rogue traders that this type of crime will not be tolerated and that you will be severely punished if found to be carrying out this crime.
“People who allow their bank accounts to be used by others in order for fraud to be committed will also be targeted and as well as being arrested they face severe penalties including the inability to obtain a bank account in future.”