Minister warns of bitumen bandits

NORTH Coast homeowners are at risk from a gang of con men offering to lay asphalt cheaply on their driveways.

Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge said her department had received reports from Woodburn, Evans Head and Coraki about the ‘bitumen bandits’, who scam and bully vulnerable people into having the work done.

“Reports indicate that the traders are driving a vehicle with the NSW registration BD 14 RA,” Ms Judge said.

The bandits generally target rural and regional areas, which they consider ‘soft touches’.

They will often say they have left-over product from another job for the local council or Main Roads and can do a good price. They also ask to be paid in cash.

The gang even waits for householders to leave their homes before laying asphalt on their driveways and then demanding payment.

“Bitumen bandits have been the subject of ongoing Fair Trading investigations,” Ms Judge said. “These bandits are generally very surveillance savvy and despite fines being issued against them, they continue their scamming activities.”

A Fair Trading spokeswoman said in one case a homeowner had been hit with a demand for $7000. In other cases, the gang drove their victims, who are often elderly, to a bank to withdraw cash.

The job they do was always substandard and the bitumen was likely to crumble within a few days, she said.

Police Minister Michael Daley said it was important for people who were approached by the bitumen bandits to contact police.

“If you come home to find them already at work on your driveway, you should still call police immediately,” he said.

The bandits could face up to five years in prison if convicted under the Crimes Act, he said.

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