Four in court over 'rogue trader scam'

Four in court over 'rogue trader scam'

Three men, including a father and son, have been remanded into custody on charges linked to an alleged rogue trader scam targeting elderly homeowners in Northern Ireland.

Elijah and Ray Lee, aged 49 and 21, are accused of fraud offences including an attempt to scam one woman out of £10,000 for building work.The pair appeared in the dock at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Wednesday along with a third man, 21-year-old Miley McCann, following a series of arrests in Holywood, Co Down on Tuesday.Elijah Lee, an unemployed man from Scrabo Road, Newtownards, faces charges of burglary, two counts of fraud by false representation, altering an electricity meter and dishonestly obtaining electricity.The allegations against him are that he dishonestly sought to obtain £10,000 and £2,500 for work that was to be carried out at homes this year. He is also accused of stealing cash and a credit card from a house at Belair Avenue in Newtownards.Ray Lee, a gardener with the same address as his father, is accused of three counts of fraud by false representation on different dates this year.He is alleged to have pretended to be an employee for a home improvement firm offering to carry out building work.One of the charges involves trying to expose a woman to a £10,000 loss, while another involves an attempt to defraud a man of £2,000.He is further accused of two burglaries involving the theft of £800 in cash, €400 and a bank card from the Belair Avenue address, and stealing £49 from a house in Newtownabbey.The third defendant, McCann, who is a full-time student from Birchwood in Bellaghy, Co Londonderry, is charged with two counts of burglary in connection with the same properties.Supporters waved at the three accused as they entered the dock.None of them applied for bail at this stage in proceedings.Their lawyer questioned an investigating detective about requests for Viper identification procedures in the case.The officer confirmed those will be carried out in due course.All three defendants were then remanded into custody. McCann is expected to appear again first by video link next Monday for a bail application.Elsewhere, a 23-year-old woman who also arrested on Tuesday and charged with fraud was bailed at a court in Newtownards.The Magistrates' Court heard how Eilish Ferguson, from Scrabo Road in Newtownards, allegedly duped a Holywood woman in her 80s to pay £2,500 for what a detective claimed was "minimal work".The detective constable told the court she was part of a gang, which under the auspices of a building firm called Memphis Home Improvements then later First Choice Improvements, would "cold call" on the "vulnerable and elderly".He objected to bail on the grounds that Ferguson would interfere with witnesses, destroy potential evidence and he also revealed police are searching for another man in connection with the alleged frauds.But a defence solicitor stressed the defendant has no previous convictions and argued the evidence against Ferguson was "tenuous at best".District Judge Peter King agreed to release Ferguson on bail when a £2,500 surety had been paid, and barred her from entering Holywood or contacting victims.He described the case, if proved, as "the meanest of mean offences targeting vulnerable members of our community", and warned that the "court system will treat [those convicted] with the utmost severity".Ferguson was ordered to reappear in court on 16 July.Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy, who was among the five people arrested, has been released on police bail pending further enquiries.

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