Trader jailed for swindling cash calls judge ‘muppet’ as he’s sent down
A "rogue" landscaper who conned two householders out of thousands of pounds for work that was never finished has been jailed. Patrick Brien who claimed to be a reputable tradesman, fed the devastated customers a "series of lies" told them to "'stop stressing" him. He even issued threats before vanishing, taking their money and leaving their gardens' a mess.
In an extraordinary outburst the 46-year-old, who a court heard has a long criminal record with more than 50 offences including a rape conviction, lashed out a judge as he was sent down calling him a "muppet", an "a******e" and saying he would refuse to pay compensation as he had been ordered. READ MORE: Multiple shops on 'counterfeit street' shut down as network of 'intimidating' spotters discovered Brien's sister Katrina O'Brien, whose account some of the money was paid into, was also convicted over the con and was handed a community order.
The court heard previously that a woman from Salford contacted Brien's company, Acorn Landscapes Paving and Fencing on October 14, 2019. She was quoted GBP1,650 to remove and take away her old driveway and lay block paving and was told the job would be finished in 10 days.Katrina O'Brien (Image: Vincent Cole - Manchester Evening News)
Two days later Brien asked for GBP490 for materials to be transferred into Katrina O'Brien's account saying she was the company secretary, however then failed to turn up for two days. On October 18 Brien he quoted an extra GBP650 to block pave the back garden taking the total price up to GBP2,300.
The following day Brien and Katrina O'Brien, who he introduced as his wife, went to the house and asked for GBP1,000 to pay for more materials and staff wages. O'Brien drove the woman to her workplace to collect her mobile banking device so she could transfer GBP400. On October 20, Brien told the customer more work needed doing, increasing the overall price to GBP2,900.
He threatened to walk off the job if she did not agree, saying the job should cost GBP4,200 The woman reluctantly agreed but said she would have to take out a loan to pay the extra cost.Brien was jailed by a judge at Manchester Magistrates Court (Image: Manchester Evening News)
The following day the woman's old concrete driveway was loaded onto a truck by Brien, his sister, and three other men, one of whom was Brien's cousin. However, they asked for GBP236 in cash to pay the truck driver and buy fence panels. As well as that money the victim paid GBP,1000 into Katrina O'Brien's bank account saying she would pay the remaining balance when the job was completed But, neither Brien nor any workmen turned up for nine days and he told the woman to "stop rushing them" when she messaged to find out when the work would be finished.
On November 3 Brien and a man he described as his business partner, went to the property and asked for GBP100 as they were short on materials. When the householder refused, he began shouting at her.Katrina O'Brien - pictured leaving court -was given a community order for two offences of money laundering (Image: Vincent Cole - Manchester Evening News)
They said they would not finish the job unless she paid more money and threatened to break into the shed to take their tools and her motorbikes. The police were called and Mr Brien told them, falsely, that the job was finished.
Later, after asking for more money for materials, Brien told the woman that as she had threatened to contact the police and trading standards that they would not do any more work and told her not to ring them again. His second victim, from Wythenshawe, contacted Brien's firm on December 9, 2019, about block paving his back garden before Christmas. He was quoted GBP3,000 for the work which it was said would take a week.
Some work was done and the customer paid GBP1,900 in total. On December 20, the man and his partner both texted asking Brien when he would be coming back to to finish the job and he replied saying "stop stressing [me] out, I'm busy." Further messages on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and December 27 went unanswered before the couple were told to stop texting as the company was not working over Christmas would be back on January 2. In the New Year, they initially threatened to cancel the job and refund the difference but then agreed to return with a workmen going to the property for around an hour on January 7 before asking for GBP240 for more stone.
After this they did not return and messages went unanswered from January 23 onwards.Brien and O'brien were prosecuted by Salford City Council following an investigation by their Trading Standards Team (Image: Manchester Evening News)
Neither they nor the Salford householder have had any refund from the company despite the work being unfinished. An expert surveyor called in by Salford City Council's trading standards team to examine the mess he left behind said the work carried out was "minimal, substandard and far from being complete" in both cases and was "not concurrent with that of a competent contractor." The surveyor added both jobs were under-priced by GBP1,855, and GBP2,600 respectively suggesting Brien intentionally quoted low prices in order to gain work he had no intention of completing.
Brien, of Rosette Walk, Swinton, was convicted after trial of four counts of fraud and three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, two relating to professional diligence and one to misleading action. The court heard he has 32 convictions for 56 offences including one for rape, and a number for dishonesty and violence. Defending himself, Brien said: "I grew up in a traveller community and I have a glowing record compared to most of my friends and family.
I think I have done well for myself given where I have come from." He said he had "taken too much on" and admitted the customers had "suffered" as he had "left them in the dark with no communication" but said he had tried to rectify that. "I can assure you it will never happen again as we have a green light system where all work gets done before we get paid," he said. However, passing sentence at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court on Friday morning District Judge Bernard Begley said: "The hurt and upset you caused to these customers was plain to see when they gave their evidence to me."
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And he told Brien his attitude towards his victims had been "mirrored by your attitude to the probation service" when they tried to contact him regarding the preparation of a pre-sentence report.
The judge said the offences "were so serious only a custodial sentence can be justified" as he jailed him for a total of 36 weeks. He was also ordered to pay compensation order of GBP2,126 to one victim and GBP526 to the other. As he was led away Brien said to the judge "You muppet.
I'm not paying you nothing. I'm not paying s**t. "A******e" Katrina O'Brien, of Foxhill Road, Eccles, was convicted of two offences of money laundering involving a total of GBP3,190 paid into her bank account.
In a separate hearing, District Judge Begley told O'Brien told her she had "quite complex needs" and was "clearly on the periphery of what's happened in this particular escapade." He sentenced her to a 12-month community order with 24 rehabilitation activity requirement days. She was also fined GBP50 and ordered to a victim surcharge of GBP85 and costs of GBP350. Speaking after the hearings, Councillor Barbara Bentham, lead member for environment, neighbourhoods and community safety at Salford Council said: "Salford will not tolerate rogue traders cheating residents like this and we will take action to stamp them out.
People paid Mr Brien to get a job done. Instead they were fed a series of lies, conned out of more and more money and even threatened before he vanished taking their money and leaving a mess behind him. "I urge anyone looking for a trader to ask family and friends for recommendations or use established trade associations for recommendations.
Get three quotes to compare, and ask the traders for a detailed written quote, which should include the trader's name, address and contact details."