A CRUEL conman who duped a vulnerable pensioner into giving him more than £2,000 for gardening work has been jailed.
Paul Clark, 49, drove his elderly victim to four banks across Teesside as he demanded £4,000 from her. Teesside Crown Court heard how the victim, a 66-year-old woman who lives on her own, has been left devastated by the con and too scared to answer her door.
Clark callously targeted the woman in the street when she was going to the post office.
David Crook, prosecuting, said: “The defendant saw her walking along, stopped his car and set about this entire ruse telling her that her neighbours had complained about her garden being overgrown and having rats, however he could sort it out for her.”
Clark quoted her £1,500 which she agreed to pay and he demanded the cash immediately.
He drove her to two banks in Hartlepool to withdraw the cash which she handed over.
But when Clark attended her house the next day he said the workmen had not turned up and said he wanted another £2,000 from her.
This time he drove her to Billingham and Stockton for her to withdraw the cash but she could only get £500 which she gave Clark.
A manager in one of the banks became suspicious and noted down details of Clark’s car and alerted police.
Back at the victim’s house Clark started demanding any other money the woman had in the house and she handed over £50 from a tin.
He then upped the price of the gardening work by another £500 making the total £4,000.
But Clark was arrested after he took the victim to Virgin Money, in Hartlepool, where she tried to withdraw cash but staff were suspicious and called the police.
The victim said in a statement: “I feel so stupid I let this man take advantage of me.
“I don’t normally withdraw large amounts of money but felt pressured to do this as he was quite intimidating.
“I can’t believe there are people out there who target elderly people. My only hope is he is convicted and doesn’t do it to any more elderly people.”
Clark, formerly of Oxford Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.
His lawyer Richard Herrmann said he had been driven to the fraud because he was hooked on betting shop roulette machines.
Mr Herrmann, mitigating, said: “He is genuinely mortified and remorseful about this appalling offending.”
Sentencing Clark to 13 months in prison, Recorder Henry Prosser said: “Although the victim of these offences is only 66 and not old by today’s standards she was in my judgement a vulnerable woman.
“She lived on her own following the death of her parents and immediately fell for your story about her garden being overgrown and there being rats.”
He added: “These offences were described by your counsel as appalling and horrific and in my judgement that’s not an inappropriate description of what you did.
“She was frightened by you and felt pressurised. I’m satisfied you targeted her as a suitable person to try to obtain money from when you saw her in the street.”