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Vulnerable pensioner pressured to withdraw cash

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A VULNERABLE pensioner was subjected to a frightening ordeal after two men supposed to be carrying out work on his house forced him to get into their van, before driving him to three towns in an attempt to withdraw money to pay them for work not yet carried out.

36-year-old Edmund Lee, of Ty Gwyn, Whitland, pleaded guilty to engaging in an aggressive commercial practice when he appeared before magistrates in Haverfordwest this week. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide the complainant – a man in his sixties – with notice of his right to cancel their contract.

His cousin Benjamin Lee, 21, of St Clears, pleaded guilty to a charge of contravening the requirements of professional diligence. The offences were all committed between March 31 and April 10 of last year.

Prosecuting on behalf of Pembrokeshire County Council, Jeff Harries explained that complainant lived alone in the Tenby area. He required daily care as a result of ongoing medical issues, and was unable to read or write.

The court heard that the money was ostensibly to pay for power-washing garden paths and guttering and a garden clearance, and the total sum involved was £732.

The complainant’s bank records showed that, in addition to his regular weekly cash withdrawal, he took out sums of money on three occasions – £182 in Tenby on March 31, £450 from the same bank on April 6, and £100 from the Carmarthen branch of HSBC on April 8. Due to his literacy issues, the complainant was only able to withdraw money with help from bank staff.

“He states that he was approached on a number of occasions between March 31 and April 10,” Mr Harries added.

On April 8, he was standing at a bus stop waiting to visit family when the Lees pulled up in a van. He was told to get in and made of trips to banks in the Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carmarthen areas. The first two were closed, and he eventually managed to withdraw £100 from Carmarthen HSBC – the maximum he could take out due to lack of id. He was told to meet the complainants at the former Playhouse with more money, or they would visit him at a later date to collect it.

The police received a complaint from a member of the victim’s family on April 8 after he told them about the money. Police spoke to him on April 9, and he ‘appeared anxious and concerned’ that the men could return.

As a result, when Benjamin Lee knocked on the complainant’s door on April to it was answered by a police officer. Lee then ran away, but returned after answering a phone call from police on the complainant’s phone.

In interview, Edmund Lee said that he had been posting flyers advertising his business in the area on March 31 when he saw the defendant walking near his house. They then agreed a price to do some work.

Benjamin Lee made no comment except to confirm that he had not been present when his cousin agreed the contract with the complainant on March 31.

“There are no mitigating features, only aggravating ones,” Mr Harries commented.

“The complainant would simply obey their orders, jump in the van and go to the nearest bank.

“He would sit in the middle between the two defendants – I can only imagine how intimidating that must have been.”

Representing Edmund Lee, Gavin Rofer said that the defendant had ‘simply been unaware’ that he had to provide written cancellation rights, and added that due to his own inability to read or write, Lee was unaware of many small trader regulations.

Mr Rofer said that Lee had been insistent on checking that the complainant had the money because customers had failed to pay him before. “Perhaps in an abundance of caution he offered to take him to the bank for the money,” he added, stressing that Lee was unaware at the time that this could have appeared aggressive to a person in the complainant’s situation.

Representing Benjamin Lee, Mike Kelleher drew attention to his minor role in events, as someone in effect hired by his cousin to clean the guttering, and pointed out that had he not run a similar business of his own he would not have been liable for prosecution.

Edmund Lee was fined £900, and ordered to pay a total of £1,840 in costs and compensation.

Benjamin Lee was given a £250 fine and ordered to pay £250 compensation and £780 towards costs.

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Drink driver hospitalised and arrested

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A MAN who was hospitalised after crashing his car on the B4310, Drefach, has also been arrested for drink driving.

The crash, which happened in the early hours of Sunday morning (Feb 18), destroyed the Mercedes he was driving.

He hit a van which was parked outside of a property, which was also damaged.

Dyfed-Powys Police, Welsh Ambulance Service, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service personnel attended the scene.

A spokesman for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to reports of a road traffic collision at 12.50am on Sunday morning on the B4310 in Drefach.

“We sent crews from Pontyates and Tumble at the scene and one male was cut out of a car using hydraulic cutting equipment and taken to hospital.”

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‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign takes a leap forward

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Making progress: Jonathan Edwards MP, Adam Price AM and Geraint Trello

EFFORTS to improve the availability of high speed internet and good mobile phone signal took a leap forward this week as EE sets about switching on new mobile phone masts and launches its 4G Home Broadband solution.

Representatives of EE came to Carmarthenshire this weekend to meet with Member of Parliament, Jonathan Edwards and Assembly Member, Adam Price who have led a ‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign.

Their meeting, which took place near the site of one of two new mobile phone masts near Abergorlech, focused on the upgrades and improvements the company is undertaking across rural Carmarthenshire, with a particular focus on EE’s new 4G Home Broadband solution which can provide superfast broadband via an antenna on the house – a solution EE says could help around 580,000 homes nationwide gain access to high speed connectivity.

The Plaid Cymru politicians said the new improved mobile signal was itself “a big advancement”, but said the launch of the 4G antenna was “a leap forward” for connecting rural Carmarthenshire communities.

Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said: “It was a pleasure to welcome EE to Carmarthenshire and continue our discussions on improving connectivity in rural Wales. One new mast will be switched on in Abergorlech in a matter of weeks, with another new mast for the Llansawel region with us later in the year.

“These new masts add to the 27 4G upgrades EE has carried out to existing sites in Carmarthenshire over the last 12 months, providing better coverage for rural communities including Llanybydder, Pencader and Llanarthne, adding to the upgrades from other mobile phone giants across the county.

“Perhaps the most impressive news this week is the launch of EE’s Home Broadband solution which, with the use of a small antenna on the home, can bring superfast broadband to the house. This looks like it could be the answer for many properties which have been left behind during the fixed line upgrades, or where they can only receive slower fixed broadband speeds.

“It’s not for an elected representative to promote a particular private company, but where there appears to be a solution for so many properties to get high speed internet, I have no problem in promoting the product – particularly because when it was trialed it delivered speeds over 100Mbps! This is a giant leap forward.

“Connecting Carmarthenshire is really starting to see positive results, but I’ll keep on working to ensure everyone I represent achieves good connectivity.”

Assembly Member Adam Price said: “The new sites in the Abergorlech area are the latest in a long time of upgrades in recent months, with the added bonus of those mobile signals being used for superfast internet in the home.

“Given that various grants for broadband solutions are available from the Welsh Government, we believe those who can’t get access to fixed broadband connections or receive a glacial pace connection may well be able to receive a grant to have products like 4G Home Broadband installed at their homes.

“I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a grant to cover the costs of delivering a step change in their broadband speeds to visit the Welsh Government’s website to check eligibility, or contact Jonathan and I where we can send information to them directly.

“More and more people across our Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency are seeing the benefits of good mobile phone signal and much faster broadband. We’ve still got a little way to go, but local residents are seeing big advancements. We’re delighted the Connecting Carmarthenshire campaign is delivering tangible results for the county.”

On the launch of EE’s 4G Home Broadband solution, Max Taylor, Managing Director of Marketing, EE said: “As our network continues to expand into some of the most remote parts of the UK, we’ve seen the amazing impact that 4G connectivity can have on rural communities. Our newest 4G home broadband router and antenna takes this one step further, ensuring thousands of families in rural areas across the UK could enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband inside their home for the very first time – whether video-calling the grandparents or streaming their favourite TV series.”

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4.4 magnitude earthquake felt across Wales

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AN earthquake of 4.4 magnitude has been felt across Wales and England this afternoon (Feb 17).

There are numerous reports of the earthquake being felt across west Wales, including Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The earthquake originated near Swansea, where it is was felt strongest, at around 2:30pm.

However, the earthquake was felt across Wales, and many parts of England.

The EMSC, an independent monitor of earthquakes, said: “Latest update of the effects of the #earthquake in #Swansea region. Was felt up to 300 km from epicentre.”

Dyfed-Powys Police received many reports about the incident, but said that there was no need for concern, and that they felt it themselves in their control room.

The police force said: “We are receiving an extremely high call volume reporting some sort of earth tremor in the area – we are receiving reports from across the whole of Wales (we felt it in our control room too!). For now – it is unexplained – but there is nothing to worry about.”

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