Dozens of Irish and British Travellers involved in organised crime gangs who travelled to New South Wales (NSW) to dupe home owners into cut-price shoddy repair jobs have been deported or fled the country.
Figures from NSW Fair Trading reveal most of the 39 travelling conmen, largely from Ireland, who have left the country since October were forcibly removed after they were convicted of a range of offences.
Several others abandoned jobs and fled the country when they discovered they were about to be charged.
In one of the cases, a 70-year-old Double Bay woman gave an Irish traveller claiming to be a roofer three cheques worth a total of $35,000. He cashed $23,000 before fleeing the country. Her roof was never repaired.
In another, an Irishman convinced three elderly couples on Sydney's north shore he was an engineer and they each paid him at least $4000 for repairs. All the work was defective. He was fined $90,091 and deported.
The Fair Trading Minister, Anthony Roberts, launched a crackdown on the conmen late last year, with 35 people prosecuted for 121 breaches of various laws and more than $300,000 in fines handed out.
But Mr Roberts said the ''war'' had only just begun and he would be working with Irish authorities and media to send a message to the gangs that if they attempted to operate in NSW, they would be caught and sent home.
''The vast majority of Irish people in Australia, probably 99 per cent, are great people but for those few bad apples that come here to rip us off, they are the scourge of the modern Western world,'' Mr Roberts said.
''They don't have any qualms about ripping off the elderly or the vulnerable and see nothing wrong or immoral about how they operate or the fact that they are very dangerous and violent.''
He said the gangs traditionally descended on NSW in summer to escape the northern hemisphere winter and targeted densely populated areas, such as north-west Sydney, where they could travel from house to house.
They offer home owners seemingly great deals on repairs or improvements such as roof painting or guttering. ''It might be a $10,000 job but they say they can do it for $2000 and then they use cheap water-based paint that will be running down the roof the first time it rains,'' Mr Roberts said.
''They then tell the poor elderly home owner that it will actually be $5000 and they go from two nice smiling Irishmen to turning up with five threatening individuals who take you down to the ATM to get the money.''