Victims tell court that fraudster posed as interior designer to swindle them out of over €50,000

Allegations hold that the fraudster falsely advertised himself as a interior designer on social media

A court has heard witnesses testify against a man accused of fraudulently advertising himself on Facebook as a contractor and interior designer, making off with over €50,000 in deposits. 

The man, David Grech, known as il-Popeye, is currently facing 20 charges including fraud, misappropriation and recidivism. Grech is accused of falsely advertising services interior design and interior decoration, taking victim’s deposits and then disappearing.

Magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras heard several victims testify this afternoon. They told the court that they replied to advertising on Facebook and Instagram which featured pictures of high quality work in luxury houses. 

One victim told the court that after the accused had run off with her deposit, she had done some investigating of her own and found that the pictures he posted on Facebook were of projects carried out by internationally acclaimed architects.

Among them was a luxury residence in San Paolo, il-Brażil, which Grech had given the impression of having carried out the works himself.

Investigating police inspector Wayne Borg testified, answering questions by lawyer Raisa Colombo, appearing for the Office of the Attorney General. He said that when the police had searched Grech’s garage in Gzira they had discovered a trove of luxury items, including watches, wallets, glasses, gold rings, master cards, cheques and other items.

Borg said the accused had cooperated with the police and expressed a wish to return the money to the victims. The accused liked to live beyond his means, said the inspector. 

The inspector said that some of the money he would make from the scam would be used to fix up properties which he would then rent out to others.

The police said it had been difficult to trace Grech, something also complained of by his victims. 

One woman testified to being so impressed by “his” work on Facebook that she had paid up a €5000 deposit, but was left empty handed with Grech never showing up or making excuses not to carry out the expected works.

Later, she discovered that the photographs he had featured on his page were not of his work but belonged to several internationally renowned architects, she said.

Grech had promised to carry out finishing works at the woman’s property, as well as installing soffit ceilings and floor tiles.

He had sent a quotation on Facebook messenger, she said, also recalling that the man had introduced a Bulgarian work partner.

Other victims also testified, saying that Grech would not take their calls on his mobile phone and would ignore WhatsApp messages.

One man said he had paid Grech a deposit on works for a shop he was planning on opening, but had not received any form of service from him. He would meet the accused in Marsaskala, but he had then disappeared and could not be traced.

Defence lawyer Matthew Xuereb requested bail for his client, arguing that the witnesses had now testified and there was no risk of tampering with evidence.

But prosecution lawyer Raisa Colombo strongly objected, pointing out that the man had already been found guilty of similar fraud charges and that there were a number of victims yet to testify.

Magistrate Galea Sciberras stated that she would decree on bail at a later stage.

The case continues on December 2.

Lawyer Dean Hili appeared parte civile for the victims.

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