A FORMER soldier tricked women out of thousands of pounds after befriending them over the internet.
Raymond James McDonald made marriage proposals to two women and persuaded others to pay for holidays which were never booked, Durham Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Joanne Kidd said McDonald used the dating website Plenty of Fish and a user name of Please Be Normal 1973.
“He told the women his real name was Mark Swift,” Ms Kidd told the court. “Two of the victims thought they were to be married, and one gave him £2,000 for the wedding reception.
“On the eve of a holiday to Cyprus paid for by another victim, he said he had to cancel because his daughter was seriously ill.
“He explained many absences and no-shows to victims with a concocted story about his daughter being treated for leukaemia at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.”
The court heard McDonald was caught after one of his victims contacted another.
“He was arrested while using her car,” added Ms Kidd. “He made full admissions when interviewed by police.”
McDonald, 40, formerly of Blackhills Terrace, Horden, admitted four charges of fraud by false representation between July and November last year.
He has 44 previous convictions, many for similar offences.
Jane Waugh, mitigating, said: “Mr McDonald had not long been released from a four-year sentence for conning other women.
“He came out with nothing in his pocket and not rehabilitated, so not surprisingly he did the same thing again.
“That is the only way he knew how to survive, he had nowhere to live other than in cars he borrowed.”
Judge Robert Adams jailed McDonald for two years.
The judge told him: “This was confidence fraud, deliberately targeting vulnerable victims.
“You showed a callous disregard for these women, leaving some in financial difficulty.”
Judge Adams ordered £320 cash seized from McDonald should go to a victim who lost more than £5,000 because of him.