A fraudster who stole the majority of a pensioner's life savings has been jailed for 33 months.
Justin Sewell, 43 (19.01.74) of Beulah Road, Thornton Heath was arrested on 15 March and charged the following day with two counts of fraud and one count of possession of a controlled drug namely cannabis.
He pleaded guilty at Croydon Crown Court on Thursday, 10 August and was sentenced today (11 August) to 33 months' imprisonment for each count to run concurrently.
The court heard that on Wednesday, 1 March, Sewell - who was not known to the victim prior to this offence - managed to have his name added to the 91-year-old pensioner's savings account. On that day he attended a Natwest bank with an unknown woman who pretended to be the victim - they fraudulently completed the relevant paperwork to have Sewell's name added to the account.
On 9 March, Sewell transferred £50,000 across from the victim's account to his own and the following day, 10 March transferred a further £40,000.
On 15 March, he was in a Natwest bank in Croydon when staff alerted police to his request to make a further withdrawal. He was arrested by officers from Croydon that day - during this arrest he was found to be in possession of cannabis.
Detective Constable Sam Bennett from Croydon CID, said:
"This was a deceitful crime in which Sewell stole a significant sum of money from an elderly lady's bank account.
"A swift police investigation established that Sewell had withdrawn two large sums and was seeking a third withdrawal when he was caught.
"Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040."
The woman who accompanied Sewell on his first visit to the bank has not been traced - anyone with information should contact police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Tips for protecting yourself from bogus tradesman fraud include:
- Always ask for identification before letting anyone you don't know into your house.
- Check credentials, including a permanent business address and landline telephone number. The mobile phone numbers given on business cards are often pay-as-you-go numbers which are virtually impossible to trace.
- Take control by asking the questions. Ask for references from previous customers or to see examples of their work.
- Don't sign on the spot - shop around. Get at least three written quotes to make sure you're not being ripped off.
- If in any doubt, ask the person to leave or call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. (Consumer Direct works in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities).
- If you're suspicious, why not ask the salesman if you can take their photograph - on your mobile phone, for example? If the person is legitimate, they probably won't mind.