A man was acting as a fake tradesman when he swindled and stole more than $17,000 from three elderly and vulnerable Illawarra women, a court has heard.
Darren Henry Warrilow, from Wilberforce, pleaded guilty to stealing from a property, obtaining financial advantage by deception and aggravated enter with intent to commit a serious indictable offence in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday.
Warrilow admitted to scamming more than $17,000 from the women after he pretended to be a solar panel repairer, from an electricity company and a maintenance man.
Documents tendered to court said his first victim was 87-year-old Gladys Edwards who opened her Central Avenue, Oak Flats front door to find Warrilow asking to fixing solar panels on February 9.
"I do repairs on solar panels and it's government regulation to put a fuse in your meter box and if you do not have it, the metre might catch fire, and your house and next door can catch fire too," he told Ms Edwards.
An unsuspecting Ms Edwards invited Warrilow into her home to sit down before he told her the panels needed cleaning, that he would need to cut the main power off and change the fuse, all for $380.
When Ms Edwards declined, Warrilow became impatient and frustrated as the elderly woman called her son to verify the information.
While she was out of the room, Warrilow went into her bag and stole her wallet before running out of the home.
A short time later, he called Ms Edwards pretending to be from her bank. He requested her pin and account number as he told her someone was using her credit card to access an ATM.
Once Ms Edwards realised her purse was missing, she gave Warrilow the pin number believing the call was genuine.
When she went to the bank the following day she discovered her account had been drained of $4000 in separate transactions.
Police started investigating the theft and seized CCTV of Warrilow withdrawing the money.
A few days later on February 11, Warrilow knocked on the door of another elderly woman before he told the 94-year-old with dementia that she need to pay for an electricity bill or her power would be cut off.
She was frightened so she wrote a cheque for $1850 and another for $8500.
Warrilow went to the bank to cash the $1850 cheque but when a teller disputed it he explained he was dealing with a "nightmare customer" who was "old" and that was why she signed the back.
The signature was confirmed the cheque was paid out.
The next day, Warrrilow successfully cashed the $8500 cheque.
Meanwhile, the elderly victim told her daughter about the incident and police were called.
On the same day, February 12, Warrilow and a male friend went to an 81-year-old woman's Mount Kembla home where he handed her a flyer and asked if she would like her gutters to be cleaned for $50.
The woman's gutters did not require cleaning as her neighbour regularly carried out maintenance on her property, however the woman did not realise and allowed Warrilow to start work before he also hosed her driveway.
Warrilow kept raising the price of the work before he asked her to give him a cheque for $3200, which she did.
However, Warrilow returned to the woman's home and complained the bank would not honour the cheque so her neighbour drove the woman, who had dementia, to the bank to withdraw cash.
However, the neighbour was suspicious as her and her husband did not believe the amount was a fair estimate so they and called their son, who was a serving police officer who advised not to hand over any money.
However when the neighbour and elderly woman returned home from the bank, the 81-year-old gave Warrilow the cash as he was frustrated and impatient.
The police officer put out an alert for the car Warrilow and his friend had left in.
The vehicle was stopped on the M1 Motorway and Warrilow was found with $3100 and his friend had $100. Police also found a pressure cleaner, tools and a business card with the name "Conner's Roof Restoration" which was not a registered business.
Warrilow was allowed to leave but was arrested on February 20 before he was taken to the police station and charged.
His case will return to Wollongong District Court for sentencing proceedings next month.
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