Police are searching for a group “brazen” and “disrespectful” Irish tourists, who have been accused of defrauding residents and stealing from business across south-east Queensland.
The group of men and women have been linked to 12 incidents at Brisbane and the Gold Coast, including scamming people out of thousands of dollars in a scheme police described as “seamless”.
Detective Superintendent Tony Fleming said the group had been targeting small businesses and the elderly since January.
He said the men seemed to single out homeowners by taking payments for house repairs but failing to follow through with the work, while the women focused on shops and restaurants.
“What we have before us would appear to be a group of people who are incredibly brazen, disrespectful, and likely to continue to offend,” he said.
In one case, police say an elderly man lost more than $25,000 when he paid men to repair his roof, but they never finished the job.
At a store in the Brisbane CBD, police have alleged two women distracted a staff member while a child slipped a pair of shoes into a pram.
“Based on the CCTV and some of the images we’ve got, they don’t seem to be concerned in any way shape or form about being seen or detected,” Detective Superintendent Fleming said.
“That either means they’ve done nothing wrong, or they’re incredibly brazen and have no respect for the law and more importantly, have no respect for the people in our community.”
There have also been allegations the group avoided paying restaurant bills by claiming they found foreign objects, including glass and hair, in their food.
Detective Superintendent Fleming said there was “a bit of an art and a craft” to the scams.
“They generally remain highly mobile and they don’t stay in one place too long, and my experience tells me they’re generally alert to the practices of police,” he said.
Detective Superintendent Fleming said police were working the Australian Border Force (ABF) to investigate the group of Irish nationals, who could be deported if found guilty of the allegations.
“If we have the evidence to put them before the court we’ll do that, but … we will also explore whether or not there’s an opportunity to have them return home so there can be no further offences committed,” he said.
“While that resides with our partner agency ABF, we would be looking to do that.”
Social media a ‘crime prevention’ tool
Complaints started to emerge after a Brisbane restaurateur took to social media saying she was scammed by a group of women claiming to have found glass in their food.
Birds Nest Restaurant owner Marie Yokoyama posted a warning to her Facebook page on Tuesday morning, more than a week after the group of three women, along with their four children, got out of paying a $180 bill.
🚨 Warning: to all restaurant owners in Brisbane : There are a group of fraudster Irish girls going around Brisbane…
Detective Superintendent Fleming said it was a relevant example of social media being a useful tool for police.
“Social media, as long as it’s balanced, I think it has an opportunity for great good in terms of crime prevention,” he said.
“But I have to make the point it’s one thing for people to make allegations on social media – it’s another thing for us to be able to prove it.”