Southern Daily Echo – 17 January 2008

A Hampshire MP who turned detective to catch a rogue builder has seen his vulnerable father who was conned out of thousands of pounds awarded nearly £10,000. New Forest East MP Julian Lewis tape-recorded a late-night conversation with builder Paul Grey after he became suspicious of large amounts of money being taken from his 94-year-old father's bank account.

Mr Lewis took action against Grey after he found out that £7,500 had been taken from his father Samuel, who suffers from [short-term memory problems], between December 2002 and January 2003, for building work that was never completed.

In a civil case at Cardiff County Court, Mr Lewis said he had recorded conversations with Grey during which he had

"boasted of regularly swindling large sums of money out of elderly victims by pretending to carry out building work but not actually doing it".

In a transcript read out in court, Judge Patrick Curran heard how Grey, 57, also admitted taking money from the shadow defence minister's now deceased aunt "just for turning up at her house".

Mr Lewis, who now lives in a care home, was living on his own in a Victorian house in Uplands, Swansea, when Grey took the cash. The judge ruled that Grey did con Mr Lewis and ordered him to pay the pensioner £7,500 as well as £2,262.77 interest. Grey, 57, of Brynhyfryd, Swansea, who denied the allegations, was also ordered to pay £12,000 court costs.

[For further coverage by 'The Ferret', click here.]

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'BUILDER TO PAY OAP HE CONNED'

South Wales Evening Post – 16 January 2008

A Conservative MP today warned elderly people about a builder who conned his father out of thousands of pounds. Shadow Defence Minister Dr Julian Lewis appeared at Cardiff County Court on behalf of his 94-year-old father, Samuel, claiming that £7,500 had been paid to Swansea builder Paul Grey between December 2002 and January 2003 for work that was never completed.

A judge has now ruled that Mr Grey obtained money from Mr Lewis which he should not have and ordered that he pay the pensioner nearly £10,000.

Dr Lewis tape-recorded conversations with Mr Grey, of Brynhyfryd, Swansea, after becoming suspicious of the 57-year-old, who had previously carried out building work at his father's Victorian house in the city. In the transcript, parts of which were read out in court, Mr Grey admitted taking money from other pensioners, including the MP's aunt – "just for turning up at her house".

Dr Lewis, MP for New Forest East, said today that he was "absolutely delighted" with the judgment. He said:

"The judge was incredibly impressive, and I'm delighted that he saw through this man. The main reason my sister and I wanted to do this was that the city of Swansea offered our family a home for almost 100 years. This is our way of saying thank you to the people of Swansea, by warning them in the most high-profile way we could, of the danger to old and vulnerable people posed by this man."

He described Mr Grey as a "rascal". Referring to the legal costs incurred, Dr Lewis said:

 "We have taken a large financial risk, because we were determined to stop him. We wanted to expose him on a point of principle."

He said he and his sister Lee Freeman, aged 60, who lives in Israel, were both "outraged" by Mr Grey's behaviour. He said their father, a tailor who only retired at the age of 85, made "very little money". Dr Lewis added:

"To have somebody like this come along in the evening of his life and rip him off for thousands of pounds is beneath the bottom layer of contempt."

His father now lives in a care home, having collapsed at home after the con came to light, Dr Lewis said.

Judge Patrick Curran QC said in his 23-page judgment:

"In my view the defendant alone was responsible for the appropriation of this money under false representations as to work having been done for its value."

He ordered Mr Grey to pay Mr Lewis £7,500, as well as £2,262.77 interest. Grey, who had denied the allegations, will also pay £12,000 costs.

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'MP CLAIMS BUILDER SWINDLED OAP DAD'

By Terry Crockford

South Wales Evening Post – 11 January 2008

The elderly and vulnerable father of a Swansea-born MP was conned into paying £7,500 to a builder for work that was never completed, it was claimed at Cardiff County Court. Paul Grey  is being sued by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis on behalf of his father, Samuel Lewis, who still lives in Swansea.

Dr Lewis told the hearing he believed Mr Grey had regarded his father, who suffers a mild form of dementia, as "ripe for the plucking" and had exploited him in late 2002 and early 2003. Reading from a transcript of a recorded conversation he had with Grey, Dr Lewis said the builder told him he had not taken any money from his father. He claims Grey told him:

"I earned more f****** money out of your aunt than you could ever f****** believe. For f*** all, just for turning up at her house."

Dr Lewis told the hearing dry rot was discovered in his father's home in Glanmor Road, Uplands, in November 2002. The MP hired a builder and remedial work was completed on December 6. However, his father – then aged 89 and suffering short-term memory problems – told him that other builders were at the house doing work. Dr Lewis discovered his father had given two cheques to Mr Grey totalling £1,800 to cover the cost of roofing work and wall rendering. He said Mr Grey told him in early December that the work was complete but additional work was needed on guttering and down-pipes.

Dr Lewis agreed to the £400 cost but, he claimed, the work was never completed. He asked his father's bank to alert him if any further large withdrawals were made from his father's account. He was later told his father had withdrawn a series of cash sums, eight in all, totalling £7,500. His father said he had given the money to Mr Grey. Mr Grey denied taking the money but in the phone call in April 2004 to Julian Lewis – a call which the MP recorded – he spoke of having taken money from others for work he never completed.

Mr Grey, of Brynhyfryd, was represented in court by barrister Catherine Collins. She said that the boasts which he made in the phone call were made up and were aimed at "getting under the skin" of Dr Lewis who had raised the issue of his father in Parliament and had involved the investigative TV show ‘The Ferret’. In a statement presented at yesterday's hearing, Dr Lewis said:

"I believe that Paul Grey  took my father's money in accordance with his regular practice of swindling elderly people out of their money without doing any work for them or without completing that which he began."

He rejected the notion that someone had impersonated Mr Grey in obtaining money from his father and said:

"I accept that my father's short-term memory incapacity made him vulnerable to being persuaded to withdraw large sums from the bank at such frequent intervals. However, given that Mr Grey subsequently incriminated himself on tape as a self-confessed con-man of the elderly, my father would have to have been exceptionally unlucky to have had two such con-men on his premises in the same month."

Dr Lewis told the court the conversation was one of a series of late-night phone calls Grey made to him, and added:

"He had been ringing me up frequently at night."

Mrs Collins told the court that her client said he was drunk at the time of the call in question, and upset that he had been accused of taking money from Mr Lewis. Giving evidence, Grey described Mr Lewis as a "confused man", and said he started working for him in November 2002 after meeting him outside his house in the Uplands area of Swansea. Grey, who admitted having "cash-flow problems" at the time, said the work he agreed to do on the semi-detached house had been a "more complicated job" than he had first anticipated, and said parts of the job did not get finished.

Judge Patrick Curran QC adjourned the trial until 10am today.