A rogue trader conned blind and elderly victims out of thousands of pounds and was suspected of defrauding an Australian woman out of her savings of $1,000,000.
Patrick McDonagh, targeted people in Ellesmere Port and Wirral, using a website that allows the public to look for tradespeople.
The rogue trader would then convince his victims they needed extensive work and overcharge them for the jobs.
The 38-year-old was the head of the fraudulent business, involving three others, Judy Greene, Kevin Greene and Robert Lloyd, who have also been jailed for money laundering after pleading guilty.
Chester Crown Court heard how 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 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 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 and 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This money was quickly withdrawn as cash and used to purchase high-value vehicles, such as a Ford Ranger, which were quickly sold on.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 used his ill-gotten money to treat his family to a luxury holiday in Antalya, Turkey. However, he booked the holiday using an unregistered mobile phone which was printed on his Woodcare Ltd flyers. It was this mistake that lead to his arrest.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, officers from Victoria in Australia contacted Cheshire Constabulary stating that McDonagh was suspected of defrauding a vulnerable woman out of her entire lifesavings of $1,000,000.
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.
McDonagh was handed 45 months imprisonment for conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering.
Judy Greene, 50, and Kevin Greene, 56 of Maesquarre Road, Carmarthenshire, were 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. 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."