How the police caught the rats on a cold tile roof

One element has nearly taken over the small Irish town of Rathkeale, increasing the local population of 1,500 by several thousand when they return from their overseas crime missions.

Johnny Dooley, Michael Dooley and Joseph Ball won’t be taking up much time by the letter of the law. They get penalties for pleading guilty, and in a world of multimillion-dollar fraud, their offense doesn’t make the headlines.

But the damage they inflicted on their victims goes beyond cash. They have robbed many of their confidence and sense of trust. And they made decent people feel stupid.

In Melbourne, they perfected the fly-in, fly-out model, hitting multiple targets around mostly affluent suburbs, and moving on before the police understood the sheer magnitude of the sting.

As a young detective, Steve Sinclair discovered about eight years ago that “there were 70 to 80 jobs where they used pamphlet drops at fake companies or companies they set up to look for work. They were looking for vulnerable targets and using an aggressive sales pitch.”

But they moved from Victoria to other states and returned to Britain before the police could identify them.

That is until 2019, when by then Detective Leading Senior Constable Sinclair was stationed with the Eastern Regional Crime Team and saw similar reports coming in. Rather than leaving suburban detectives to handle the scams on their patch, the task was assigned to Sinclair under Operation Sundial.

Detective Leading Senior Constable Steve Sinclair Gets His Husband. Joseph Ball is rolled.Credit:Victoria Police

Detectives found that in 2020, this crew committed 37 scams over five months, leaving behind 43 victims, the oldest of which was 93 years old. They made their way to $434,000, money their targets had saved to secure their future. And there would be other victims who were too embarrassed to come forward. “Some wouldn’t even tell family members,” Sinclair says.

“The victims were a blind person, a deaf person and someone who was being treated for cancer. Ninety percent of their victims were over 60,” he says.

The scams were all different yet depressingly similar: gain the victim’s trust, then steal as much as you can, from Black Rock to Templestowe.

For criminals willing to submit to court that they had the intelligence of the average garden gnome, they were surprisingly cunning. When a victim’s check took too long to clear, they helped him set up an online bank account to transfer over $100,000 in an instant. If anyone had trouble getting to the bank, they went with them.

They founded five fake roof repair companies, recruited unskilled workers, put them on scaffolding-less roofs, advertised through online sites and steel identities to launder money. In some cases, they started repairs on perfectly healthy roofs and then ran away and left an unsafe location, forcing the victim to pay again to hire legitimate contractors.

On March 26, 2020, a 76-year-old man was returning to his Glen Iris home after a walk when “Joe” approached to say he had been working on a nearby roof and noticed a loose tile on the man’s roof. . Said he could jump over there and fix it for $5.

Joe was Johnny Dooley.

We all know where this is going. Joe climbs on the roof and comes down to say the problem is a little worse. It would cost $970. Later still it was worse – it would cost $16,000, then it was $68,000. Then they claimed to have found asbestos and demanded another $60,000.

Intimidated, the man paid a total of $102,000 – $101,995 more than the original quote.

A cracked tile was broken, rafters under the roof were rotten, more wood was needed, a crane had to be hired or the house would collapse.

On March 6, a resident of Wheelers Hill enlisted one of the gang’s bogus companies, Approved Contractors, to repair leaks in his roof. Ball and the two Dooleys came to inspect the roof and said it would cost $6,000 to repair. The man smelled a rat (or three) and sought a second opinion. Another company, another inspection and that company replaced a cracked tile for free.

On May 14, the gang struck in Sandringham and told a man they were working nearby and noticed his roof needed repair. They helped him get an internet connection to his Lloyds bank account and when he left the room to go to the toilet, one jumped into his computer chair and managed to transfer $147,888 in the time it took the victim to by rinsing and washing his hands.

Their method was to punch and move, assuming they would leave Australia before the police determined that the drawbacks were linked. But this time, the Sundial team was working in the background to find fake identities, hidden cell phone records, and shadow companies.

Sinclair says, “They would persuade potential employees to take a screenshot of their driver’s licenses and then use that data to register cars under those names, imposing fines on the stolen identities.”

One of the other rooftop gangs changed its name four times in five years to travel in and out of Australia with new passports.

The investigation, which began in a suburban detective agency, ultimately involved the Australian Border Force, Home Office, the UK High Commission, Consumer Affairs and the NSW and WA Police Force.

“When we arrested them at a job site in Black Rock, they still thought they could talk freely. They were pretty cocky until we got search warrants for some properties. Then the look on their faces changed.”

Faced with overwhelming evidence, they pleaded guilty and produced howling plea material saying they weren’t really bad guys, had a hard time in their native UK and ended up in crime simply for getting a bad hand in life. Tell that to their victims.

So, did the crooks use the money from their crimes to lift themselves out of poverty or to pay for their children’s education? No, they bought designer watches, high-end handbags and fashionable shoes – as the items do not need to be declared when leaving Australia and can be resold for cash. Put $10,000 cash in your carry-on bag and you might get stopped at the airport. Carry on with a ten thousand dollar handbag and you may take off.

For these gangs, everything was a scam. An earlier group was caught on CCTV footage at a fast food restaurant negotiating the purchase of a used car. “After the test drive, one distracted the owner while the second, pretending to check the engine, sprayed what we thought was oil to make him smoke. They lowered the price from $8,000 to $3,000,” Sinclair says.

In May this year, Judge Michael O’Connell spoke on behalf of the victims: “They were invariably elderly, they felt a strong need to have a healthy roof over their heads … as so many of them lament, their mistake was to trusting you to be honest.”

He sentenced Johnny Dooley and Michael Dooley to a minimum of two years and nine months and Joseph Ball to a minimum of two years.

COVID-19 has halted international travel and police expect there will be a resurgence of roof scammers. The difference is that with the investigation model set up by Sundial, detectives wait.

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