Wednesday 3 August 2022 6:35pm –
Victoria Police have charged four people over the past week for allegedly carrying out more than $640,000 of fraudulent building work across Melbourne.
In July, police first received reports from the community in relation to tradesmen conducting expensive works on the roofs of residential addresses, only to leave the homes in states of disrepair or not finish the works they were paid to perform.
On Thursday 28 July, detectives from the Boroondara Crime Investigation Unit (CIU) executed a search warrant at a Thomastown address as they sought to speak to a 21-year-old male occupant in relation to one of these reports.
The 21-year-old Irish national was not home at the time of the warrant, however later in the day the Australian Border Force (ABF) alerted Victoria Police that the male had allegedly tried to board a flight to Ireland with his brother’s passport.
He was detained at Tullamarine Airport until Boroondara CIU detectives arrived to arrest the male. He was subsequently charged with obtaining property by deception and remanded to appear before the Melbourne Magistrate’ Court on 5 September 2022.
Police allege the 21-year-old male conducted maintenance works totalling $99,000 on the roof of an 81-year-old Kew male’s home between May and June 2022. The victim’s roof was allegedly ultimately left in worse condition, with the victim forced to use pots and pans inside the house as there were a number of leaks.
On Sunday 31 July, detectives from the Boroondara CIU arrested a further three males in connection to over $540,000 worth of alleged roof scams since the beginning of April.
This included a 23-year-old male, 21-year-old male and 20-year-old female who were also stopped by Australian Border Force trying to board an international flight from Tullamarine Airport. All three are British nationals.
The two men have been charged with deception offences and dealing with the proceeds of crime, with the 23-year-old remanded to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 5 December and the 21-year-old to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 5 December 2022. The 20-year-old female was interviewed regarding dealing with proceeds of crime but released pending further enquiries.
A 35-year-old male was also arrested in Oakleigh later that day and subsequently charged with deception offences and dealing with the proceeds of crime. He has been remanded to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 24 October 2022.
Police will allege the group purported to be a legitimate, licensed roofing company, convincing over 20 suspected victims that their roofs had major defects, with some allegedly told their roofs were at risk of collapse.
Subsequent independent inspections have commonly identified that works quoted for were never required, incomplete or were of poor workmanship, with amounts quoted deemed excessive.
Among the group’s alleged victims were:
• Three sisters who paid the alleged offenders $149,450 for roofing works at two properties in Point Cook and Brunswick West from mid-June with quotes across the two prospective properties increasing to $208,700. The victims paid $95,000 for roof and pergola work at the Point Cook property. An independent roof inspector has since indicated that works conducted do not comply with Australian Standards and Victorian Building Association regulations and that the overall costs for works should have been no more than $10,000. In relation to the Brunswick West property, the sisters paid $54,450 for roofing works, after being quoted $73,790. A roof inspector has since advised they did not receive the works they were quoted for and the value for works completed is around $900.
• A woman from Toorak paid the alleged offenders to replace a downpipe and to look at a roof leak having found ads for the company on the internet. She was subsequently advised that roof battens required replacement, along with a host of further works and paid $31,900 for these works. A roof inspector advised that the only works conducted appear to be the replacement of a downpipe, which was valued at $350 worth of work.
Quotes attributable to Senior Constable Lachlan Balazs, Boroondara Crime Investigation Unit
“When people fall victim to a scam, the impact often goes way beyond the immediate financial damage that is caused.
“Sadly, it is often some of the more vulnerable or elderly members of our society who are most impacted – for many the emotional distress and loss of confidence and trust in others is just as damaging as the financial fallout.
“There is a possibility that further members of the community have been affected by similar activity and we are urging anyone who suspects they may have fallen victim to illegitimate building work of this nature to come forward.”
Quotes attributable to ABF Superintendent Nicholas Walker, Aviation Operations
“These arrests show ABF officers are determined to stop people who might try and bypass our border processes.
“These were deliberate attempts to slip out of the country undetected and the decisive action of the ABF officers who stopped them should serve as a warning to anyone else looking to do the same.
“The ABF targets travelling conmen who seek to exploit vulnerable people. We are working with state police to identify and disrupt the criminal activities of travelling conmen through Operation Suddenblaze.”