AN IRISHMAN arrested after trying to flee Australia using his brother's passport has been charged by police investigating fraudulent building work across Melbourne.
The 21-year-old is one of four people charged as part of the investigation, which reportedly netted scammers AUD $640,000 (€430,000, £366,000).
In one incident, one pensioner was allegedly charged AUD $99,000 (€67,000, £56,000) for work that left his roof in a worse condition than before.
"The ABF (Australian Border Force) targets travelling conmen who seek to exploit vulnerable people," said ABF Superintendent Nicholas Walker following the arrests.
"We are working with state police to identify and disrupt the criminal activities of travelling conmen through Operation Suddenblaze."
Police in Boroondara, Melbourne, first received reports in July of tradesmen carrying out expensive works, only to leave jobs unfinished and homes in states of disrepair.
One of the reports alleged the 21-year-old Irish national carried out work totalling AUD $99,000 (€67,000, £56,000) on the roof of an 81-year-old man's home in Kew, Melbourne, between May and June 2022.
The victim's roof was allegedly ultimately left in worse condition, with the pensioner forced to use pots and pans inside the house as there were a number of leaks.
On July 28, detectives from Boroondara Crime Investigation Unit (CIU) executed a search warrant at the Thomastown residence of the Irishman.
Victoria Police have charged four men after allegedly carrying out more than $640,000 of fraudulent building work across Melbourne.
The men, who are Irish and British nationals, are alleged to have carried out a number of roofing scams since April this year. pic.twitter.com/tVOW6PvbC5
— Victoria Police (@VictoriaPolice) August 3, 2022
He was not at home, however later that day the ABF alerted Victoria Police that the man 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 him.
He was subsequently charged with obtaining property by deception and remanded to appear before Melbourne Magistrates' Court on September 5, 2022.
On Sunday, July 31, detectives from Boroondara CIU arrested three British nationals in connection with AUD $540,000 (€366,000, £309,000) worth of alleged roof scams since April.
Two males aged 23 and 21 and a 20-year-old female were stopped by the ABF trying to board an international flight from Tullamarine Airport.
The two men have been charged with deception offences and dealing with the proceeds of crime and were remanded to appear before Melbourne Magistrates' Court on December 5.
The woman was interviewed regarding dealing with proceeds of crime but released pending further enquiries.
A 35-year-old male was also arrested in Oakleigh, Melbourne, later that day and subsequently charged with deception offences and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
He has been remanded to appear before Melbourne Magistrates' Court on October 24, 2022.
Police 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 (€101,000, £85,000) for roofing works at two properties.
Experts have since said the work did not meet regulations, was not the work the sisters were quoted for and that the combined value of the completed work was AUD $10,900 (€7,400, £6,200).
Another woman paid AUD $31,900 (€21,500, £18,000) for work that an inspector later valued at $350 (€240, £200).
"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," said Senior Constable Lachlan Balazs of Boroondara CIU.
"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."