A 23-year-old man, M.A.S., has been arrested in Palma on suspicion of fraudulently gaining access to private property by posing as a butane and propane gas tank inspector, National Police confirmed yesterday.

The suspect was unable to provide evidence that he was in the pay of a bona fide company but had been introducing himself to the elderly and vulnerable as a government inspector. He convinced his victims that he was able to provide smoke and gas detectors as safety installations for the home, but the alleged bogus operations meant that there were no maintenance personnel and qualified inspectors to check the equipment. Police said that M.A.S. had been operating fraudulently for several months.

He apparently told his victims that unless they had the “safety equipment” installed, they could be subject to heavy fines by law. According to some of the householders who had fallen prey to M.A.S., the suspect then invoiced them excessive amounts, sometimes more than 300 euros. His activity, said police, is reportedly part of a national fraud network involving eight companies. Cases have also come to light in Ibiza. Victims had been told that the 1st January this year had been the deadline for smoke and gas detectors to be installed in homes but enquiries with government departments revealed that no such ultimatum had been given to the public.

Another member of the same “company”, Ruben S.S. had allegedly turned up unannounced with M.A.S. at the home of woman in Palma and installed equipment for which she was charged 403 euros. The police said that in fact similar devices can be purchased in shops for 20 euros.