Trailers Are for Travelers 

What were million-dollar Irish scam artists doing living in this trailer park?

Page 5 of 8

Realizing that one has been fooled can be difficult, especially if the homeowner is elderly and unlikely to scale the roof to check up on the work himself -- Rind says some people have unwittingly been swindled by the same con five or six times.

In a related scam, Travelers have been known to approach mobile home residents and offer to coat their homes with a sunlight-reflecting substance that will keep the trailer cooler, although in reality this may or may not work. Even when employing legitimate materials, such as using asphalt to pave driveways, the board says that Travelers sometimes do work that is so shoddy the homeowner has to pay someone else to redo it. Because the Travelers are usually long gone by the time anyone's noticed the damage, it's hard to track them down for a refund. And a new Traveler scam that Rind says is emerging in the South Bay is even more sinister: They show up offering to trim your trees, get you out in the backyard, and then have their cohorts burglarize your house while you're not looking.

While the home improvement scams are mostly performed by men, female Travelers have frequently been associated with shoplifting crimes. For example, Rind says, a common trick is to buy one set of clothes or cartful of items, steal a second identical one, and then return the legitimately purchased items for cash.

The bar-code-switching scheme perpetrated by Davenport, Hay, and Broderick appears to be a unique hybrid of the home repair and shoplifting cons. Perhaps its slight variance from a typical Traveler scam is part of the reason they were able to get away with it for so long.

Even though they were wily enough to con a major corporation out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the three never seem to have applied their energies to enjoying their ill-gotten gains. The specifics of their pre-Home Depot lives are hard to gather, but the details gleaned by their lawyers show that they were used to moving from place to place. Davenport grew up without parents and spent much of his adult life working as a civil engineer all over the world, according to his attorney, Daniel Horowitz. Although Davenport didn't have an extensive education, he reportedly did well for himself by taking on unpopular postings in Africa and the Middle East.

Broderick, meanwhile, was raised by foster parents. According to her attorney, James Giller, her foster father was in the military and moved the family back and forth between England and Ireland. As an adult, she worked as a hairdresser, accompanying Davenport around the globe. She also made money by crafting beaded jewelry, which she sold at fairs.

Davenport and Broderick's initial connection to Hay is unknown. He apparently knew them before he was deported from the United States in 2000, then met up with them again once he was allowed to re-enter the country. "Hay is somebody they took in to try to befriend because he's a nice man and he seemed lonely and they wanted to be friends with him," Horowitz says. "He's a very charming, smart man."

So if they didn't aspire to penthouse living, why collect all that cash? A possible explanation is that the three, all in their late fifties or early sixties and none in excellent health, planned to return to Ireland and retire on it. Davenport, for example, has a lung condition called sarcoidosis that requires him to take prednisone, a catabolic steroid often taken by lung cancer patients. Since his imprisonment, he has undertaken a series of hunger strikes because he feels he isn't being given proper medical care at the Santa Rita Jail. "He thinks it's an abysmal dungeon of a place," Horowitz says. "The last we knew he was really, really unhealthy. ... His wife is terrified he's going to die." According to Hay, throughout his yearlong incarceration Davenport has spent several weeks in Oakland's Highland Hospital and has been on life support multiple times.

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