A bogus workman who deliberately preyed on vulnerable Fife pensioners to con them out of thousands of pounds has been jailed for almost three years.
John Paterson, 29, targeted 94-year-old Phyllis Smith, who is registered blind, 84-year-old Jemima Morris, and dementia-sufferer Elizabeth Duncan, demanding large sums of money for non-existent or shoddy roofing work over a four-month period.
Paterson, of Viewforth Place, Kinghorn, was eventually caught when worried relatives discovered his deceit.
In sentencing Paterson to 32 months behind bars at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court, Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC told Paterson: “These are despicable crimes.
“In each case, it is quite clear that you deliberately targeted the most vulnerable victims you could find.”
Paterson admitted pretending to Mrs Smith that he had carried out work on her roof in Park Road West, Rosyth, on various occasions between July 18, 2019, and July 25, 2019; induced her to provide him with a cheque for £1,000 and trying to persuade her to pay him further sums of money.
In reality, no work had been carried out, and Mrs Smith had not agreed for the work to be done.
Paterson wrote cheque himself
The court heard how Mrs Smith, who lived alone and is partially-sighted, answered the door to Paterson in her nightdress one morning and was told: “I’m here to get money for doing your roof…you get it done every year.”
After Paterson asked for £1,000, Mrs Smith instructed Paterson to fetch her cheque book, wrote the cheque himself and got his victim to sign it.
Thankfully Mrs Smith later phoned her daughter to tell her what happened, and she contacted her mum’s bank in an initial bid to stop the cheque.
However, depute fiscal Alistair McDermid told the court Paterson again visited Mrs Smith’s house on at least two other occasions asking for £1,000 but was told to come back later.
After she alerted her son Andy to the incidents, he successfully got the cheque stopped and police were informed.
He told cops: ‘I have nothing to fear’
Paterson later told police: “The woman wanted the work done, she gave me a cheque but the cheque bounced. It’s all right, I have nothing to fear.”
Paterson similarly admitted conning 84-year-old Jemima Morris out of £360 on July 24, 2019, by pretending to have carried out work on her address in Durham Crescent, Lower Largo, on behalf of Fife Council.
On that occasion, Paterson and another man managed to convince Mrs Morris to hand over £360 in cash.
However, the court heard that Paterson erred by asking for a drink of water during the visit, with DNA from the glass helping to identify him as the guilty party.
Dementia sufferer among victims
Paterson also pled guilty to a further fraud charge relating to incidents between October 1, 2019, and November 21, 2019, in Taylor Street, Methil.
He managed to obtain £1,200 from householder Elizabeth Duncan, who has early onset dementia, and repeatedly demanded further payment from her and her family, despite grossly exaggerating the value of the work being carried out and doing it to a “grossly negligent” standard.
Relatives of Mrs Duncan noted concerning discrepancies in her bank statement, and they were alerted to further attempts by Paterson to get money by a video doorbell they had fitted at her flat.
Roofing experts later found that much of Paterson’s work was poorly done or completely unnecessary.
‘A fraud from start to finish’
Defence solicitor Kerr Sneddon pointed out there was no loss in the first incident, and that work had been done to Mrs Duncan’s house – albeit sub-standard.
On the interview he gave to police, Mr Sneddon said his client had been “blasé or stupid”, depending on one’s viewpoint.
But Sheriff Gilchrist replied: “That’s neither blasé or stupid – that’s just a lie.
“The whole thing was a fraud from start to finish.”
The court also heard that Paterson had previous convictions for drugs offences, which prompted Sheriff Gilchrist to address Mr Sneddon again.
“It’s hard to imagine going downmarket from drug dealing but he seems to have managed it,” he told the solicitor.
Sheriff Gilchrist imposed a total of 32 months imprisonment, discounted from 42 months.