A “career criminal” has been jailed for swindling thousands of pounds out of elderly and vulnerable victims in cold call roofing scams.
Kirk Whelan, 50, of Osbourne Court, Connahs Quay, preyed on the elderly and disabled in Chester, pressurising them to hand over cash for jobs which didn’t need doing. He pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud at Chester Crown Court yesterday and asked for one other count to be taken into consideration for sentencing.
Prosecuting, Jo Maxwell told the court that Whelan had targeted four victims in the Garden Quarter, city centre, Hoole and Boughton areas of the city.
She said that the first victim, Andrew Huxley, of the Garden Quarter, was a man who was “extremely anxious” and suffered from bipolar and paranoid schizophrenia. He is also the sole carer for his 80-year-old mother who is bed-bound.
Ms Maxwell said that care workers come to the house and in January Mr Huxley complained to one of them that he had been overcharged by workers.
Mr Huxley told the police that a man called “Kirk” had been coming to his house for five years and that he would pay him for work. He said that he thought he was being overcharged but was “scared to raise it with police”.
He said he was “intimidated and concerned for his property”. On one occasion he had found Whelan rifling through his kitchen drawers in his house when he had no reason to.
Ms Maxwell said that the work was “unnecessary, including replacing a strip light in the kitchen which did not need replacing”.
Whelan would take Mr Huxley to the cash machine and watch him get cash out. In total he took £2,200 from Mr Huxley.
The second victim was Frank Marchington, 86, of Hoole.
Ms Maxwell said that Mr Marchington’s son-in-law was at his home on Janaury 13 when Whelan knocked on the door and walked in without anyone answering it.
Whelan told the son-in-law that he had “come to see how you are getting on Frank and get that money you owe me”.
Whelan said that he had been paid £30 for some work but more was owed. The son-in-law called the police and tried, with the help of a neighbour, to get Whelan to stay but he left.
A police investigation into Mr Marchington’s bank accounts showed that he had handed over £800 in cash to Whelan. Police found CCTV footage of a white Ford Transit van with Whelan and Mr Marchington in where Whelan took him to a cash point to withdraw cash.
The third victim was Norman Dixon, 94, of Boughton.
Ms Maxwell said that he told police that in December 2016 a group of men started to do work in the area and Whelan cold called him and said there were some issues with his roof.
Ms Maxwell said that Mr Dixon asked for written receipts and quotes but none were ever provided.
Whelan went on his roof to replace lead work but had, instead, painted over the lead with gloss paint. Mr Dixon was also driven to the cash point by Whelan and made to hand over cash.
On one occasion he wrote a cheque for £1,200 to Whelan and was taken to the bank to cash it. Staff at the bank refused to cash the cheque so Whelan made Mr Dixon write another cheque to take to a different bank for it to be cashed.
In total Mr Dixon handed over £2,820. In a victim impact statement read to the court Mr Dixon said he felt “pressured to agree to the work”. He said Whelan “would never answer questions properly or look me in the eye”.
The fourth victim was Paul Burton, of the city centre. Mr Burton has mobility issues and is house bound. He was charged £460 to change a broken slate by Whelan.
Ms Maxwell said that in total Whelan stole £6,280 from the vulnerable victims. She told the court that Whelan had 26 convictions for 80 offences including some previous convictions for doing the same thing.
Defending, Mark Le Brocq said that Whelan’s best mitigation was his guilty plea and that was “pretty much the extent of it”.
Jailing him, the honorary Recorder of Chester, Judge Roger Dutton, described Whelan as a “career criminal” and told him he was a “thorough and utter disgrace” and had “no scruples at all”.
Judge Dutton said that Whelan deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable men to defraud. He said: “You escorted them to the cash machine so you could get your hands on their cash. It is disgraceful behaviour. I think you have no feelings for these people at all.”
Judge Dutton jailed Whelan for two years – the maximum he was able to under the sentencing guidelines – and placed him under a 10-year criminal behaviour order.
Under the terms of the order Whelan cannot go door to door to cold call and look for work, he cannot enter any driveway, except for family and friends, without the express permission of the owner, or carry out any work with Ian Garland, Gary Jones, Darren McHugh and Michael Jackson.
See full story in the Chester Leader