A SERIAL fraudster who posed as a general handyman and answered advertisements for home improvement jobs across the Clarence Valley but never did the work, scamming his victims $6800 out of pocket, has been jailed.
Mark Andrew Hughes appeared in Grafton Local Court on Tuesday for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to four charges of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception.
The court heard the offences date between September 2018 and January 2019, and involved Hughes answering four separate adverts on Facebook community groups from across the Clarence from people looking to engage a tradesman for general home improvement work.
According to the agreed facts, the 47-year-old answered the advertisements as part his general handyman service A1 Complete Property Maintenance and in each case responded to notices posted on Facebook groups asking for work to be done.
The court heard Hughes responded to the posts made by the victims and arranged to give a quote over what services he could provide before requesting an initial deposit.
Hughes collected $6800 in deposits from his four victims, but despite many requests and attempts from the victims to contact Hughes he never completed any of the jobs, and only made a start on the fourth project he was contracted to complete. Court documents reveal none of the money has been recovered.
Magistrate Kathy Crittenden said the harm and distress caused by the fraud to the victims must be acknowledged, and that there was a need for general and specific deterrence considering the seriousness of the offences and how contacting a handyman for work over social media is common.
“The amount of money involved in the offences is towards the lower end of the scale but is not insignificant,” the magistrate said.
“The victims, who in good faith engaged the offender for home improvement work, suffered a significant amount of stress and inconvenience which must be taken into account.”
The court heard Hughes had previously served two prison sentences in 2007 and 2010 for two unrelated fraud charges, and is currently serving a three year, eight month prison sentence after pleading guilty to dishonestly obtain by deception a financial advantage from the Commonwealth and sentenced earlier this year.
The court heard a forensic psychologist diagnosed Hughes with a major depressive disorder which he has suffered for the past 35 years following the death of his father at a young age, and a traumatic incident with his older brother during his childhood.
Magistrate Crittenden said no other sentence other than full time imprisonment was appropriate for the offences and imposed an aggregate sentence of six months, to commence from the eligible parole date of his Commonwealth sentence on May 10, 2022.
Hughes will be eligible for parole on November 21, 2022.