Fair Go: Victims of rogue roofer who took more than $250k from them call for tougher sentence

Gill Higgins
Source: 1News

The victims of a rogue roofer say he should have been given jail time for his offending.

The roofer, Macaulay Marchant, who traded under the name Essential Roofing Limited, took more than $250,000 from customers.

In some cases he carried out shoddy work, in others he failed to turn up to the job at all. During this time, he was using customers' money to feed his gambling habit and living the high life.

Marchant pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining money by deception, one of incurring a debt while his company was insolvent, and one of failing to keep records of his accounts.

He was sentenced to eleven months home detention, plus an order to pay back approximately $150,000. It's left his former customers feeling angry, saying the punishment doesn't go far enough.

Matt Voice was one of those customers, giving Marchant over $3000 upfront to waterblast, fix and re-paint his damaged roof.

Marchant showed up to do the waterblasting but that's all.

Matt spent months trying to get Marchant to return and finish the job but when it became clear that wasn't going to happen, he asked for a refund. It soon became clear that wasn't going to happen either.

After all the frustration, and knowing many others had been duped by Marchant, Matt's initial response to the sentencing was relief.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "It does feel good."

But he was also annoyed that the sentence was so light.

"I don't think the punishment fitted the crime. I don't think it sets a good precedent to all the other dodgy traders who are ripping people off."

Lee Tua also paid several thousand dollars to Marchant to fix a leaky roof. The roof was worse after Marchant had briefly been there, and despite repeated promises, he failed to come back to complete the work.

Lee agrees sentences for tradies like this should be a deterrent to others.

"I know it sounds horrible, but I was hoping for prison time for him. Given the number of people he ripped off it definitely warranted a heavier sentence."

Over a dozen other victims had paid tens of thousands of dollars to Marchant, but despite making arrangements to do the work, the roofer never stepped foot on their properties.

He frequently came up with excuses about ill health, poor weather or lacking supplies. Customers started to complain on social media but Marchant claimed the bad reviews he received were "disgruntled ex-girlfriends with fake Facebook profiles".

A couple of customers contacted the police but it was difficult for the investigation to prove intent to deceive as Marchant kept promising to do the work in the future. The customers also contacted Fair Go.

The consumer programme stepped into action and encouraged as many disgruntled customers as possible to give clear details of Marchant's broken promises to the police.

This helped the detective on the case to establish a pattern of behaviour, whereby Marchant would promise to complete jobs for different people in different places at the same time. This helped to prove the roofer had no intention of doing the work, finally leading to his arrest.

The investigation also showed that his company, Essential Roofing Limited, didn't have a company bank account, it wasn't registered for GST and that Marchant hadn't filed any income tax returns.

The sentencing notes show that the starting point for sentencing was 23 months jail time.

Based on a positive pre-sentence report, this was reduced to 11 months home detention plus community work and a repayment plan.

The report indicated that Marchant appeared to be "genuinely sorry for his offending", having met and apologised to one of his victims.

It also showed that he was in "a solid job" with strict conditions set in order to prevent any further offending. This job would allow him to earn money to go towards reparation.

The judge also said that Marchant was relieved of any community work on the basis he'd be working hard to pay off the debt, and he added that the $4000 Marchant had accrued in fines would be wiped as "there is not much point in them sitting on top of a hundred and something thousand dollars in reparation".

Marchant's victims couldn't hide their disappointment that the roofer would be living and working an almost normal life.

"The sentence is like a slap on the wrist for him, but it's a slap in the face for us," said Lee Tua.

However, she was pleased that at least he'd been publicly named and shamed and that his days of conning people were hopefully over.

"People often wonder if it's worth going through this process. I'd say yes, it is, 100 per cent."