Two members of an alleged international “fake tradie” syndicate fled Australia after ripping off homeowners, while the youngest was left to face the music.
On Tuesday, the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard Mark Burton, 23, and Martin Carter, 35, fled Australia for the United Kingdom, using other people’s passports following their arrests in July this year.
The two men were arrested over an alleged roofing scam in Melbourne, which swindled more than $600,000 from the “elderly and vulnerable”.
The scam allegedly involved the pair approaching homeowners with small quotations for minor roofing repairs, which quickly escalated to large amounts, with the syndicate members claiming there was a “risk of collapse”.
The syndicate’s victims allegedly included Tania Hird, wife of AFL legend James, who allegedly paid $33,000 for repairs to the roof of their Toorak mansion, which should have cost just $350.
Tania Hird allegedly paid $33,000 for repairs to the roof of her Toorak mansion which should have cost just $350. Picture: Mark Stewart
Mr Burton’s younger brother, Johnny Cassidy, 21, was arrested after attempting to secure a new passport and was taken back into custody.
In the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, the Englishman pleaded guilty to charges of obtaining property by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
The court heard Cassidy had been pressured into joining the scam by his older brother, but had “far lesser involvement”, according to prosecutor Ashleigh Morris.
The young man had arrived in Melbourne on May 3, declaring on his incoming passenger card that he was here for a 17-day holiday with his wife, who is not accused of any wrongdoing.
He set up a bank account which received about $177,000 from Mr Burton’s company, Top Rated Roofing and Guttering Pty Ltd.
About $87,000 was paid out in cash to unskilled labourers hired for the work and purchasing materials, with the balance spent on partying and drugs.
Top Rated Roofing And Guttering Pty Ltd was set up by Mark Burton in April 2022, who created a website and ordered business flyers within a week of arriving in Australia.The website for Top Rated Roofing and Guttering Pty Ltd offered customers ‘outstanding quality and service at a competitive price’.
In Court, Cassidy’s lawyer, Rahmin De Kretser, said his client was now “broke” and that he and his wife were now surviving on “meagre” funds being sent from family in the UK.
“While there was some lifestyle enrichment, it occurred over a very short term,” he said.
“It’s been a nightmare ever since. He’s not a criminal mastermind, he’s a young man who has stupidly got involved over here.”
He asked the court to show “mercy and compassion” for his client, submitting he should be sentenced to time served so he could fly home “in the next couple of weeks”.
Cassidy’s wife, the court heard, was heavily pregnant and the child had been diagnosed with an abnormality of the brain which would lead to “many poor health outcomes”.
While on bail, Cassidy was allegedly kidnapped and beaten by Mr Carter, who suspected he had “blagged to the police”.
Magistrate Kieran Gilligan said that despite the maximum penalty for the offending being 10-years’ imprisonment, he had been persuaded to show compassion due to the “exceptional circumstances”.
“His age and lack of priors means rehabilitation plays an important sentencing role,” he said.
“The offending is serious; he has deprived the elderly and vulnerable of their money, but I am convinced he was a minor player.”
Cassidy was sentenced to 39 days’ imprisonment, reckoned as time already served.
On behalf of his client, Mr De Kretser thanked the court, police and magistrate for their “pragmatism and compassion”.
He said Mr Cassidy and his wife are planning to leave Australia before January 8 and may be receiving financial assistance from the British Consulate to do so.
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