A HAMPSHIRE pensioner has been ruthlessly conned out of his £140,000 life savings by a gang of fraudsters.
Posing as Trading Standards officers, they convinced the vulnerable 78-year-old that shoddy repairs had been carried out on his home and tricked him into handing over his money to help fight his case.
But it was not until the pensioner contacted the organisation himself, to find out the progress in his case, that he discovered he had been cruelly duped.
The gang has never been caught despite an extensive police investigation to trace those responsible.
However, 57-year-old Colin Edwards is today behind bars for his role in the con, having admitted laundering the stolen money through his own bank account.
Southampton Crown Court heard how the money was traced back to Edwards bank account by police who arrested him five months after £100,000 had been put in to his account.
During interview, Edwards told detectives he had been approached by a man called Richard Wilson, who he claimed had previously done work on his drive, who wanted to deposit a sum of cash in his account because he did not have a bank account himself.
Withdrawal He claimed Wilson told him that money totalled £25,000 for work he had done on the Olympic Village for the 2012 Games.
However, Edwards told officers that when he checked his statement he discovered £100,000 had been deposited and he feared it had come from crime.
The court heard he withdrew £90,000 in cash for the fraudsters within five days and claimed he and his family were threatened with violence if he did not cooperate.
Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer, who stressed Edwards had not been involved in the original fraud, said: “He said he didn’t contact the police because he was afraid to do so.
“Extensive efforts have been made to trace those people but they have failed.”
In mitigation, Georgina Gibbs described Edwards as a person who would do anything for anyone and was ‘overtly trusting’.
She said: “When he saw the £100,000 in his account, he realised something was wrong. He is very sorry and knows he made the wrong decision. He should have gone to the police or refused to cooperate.”
Jailing Edwards, of Northampton, Judge Peter Henry described the fraud as “unpleasant and sophisticated” with enormous repercussions for the victim.
He told him: “You took a risk where this money had come from and it had come from this elderly and vulnerable man.”
After the case, Det Con Bob Rees said it was “a serious and well planned fraud”.
He said: “The victim has lost a considerable amount of his savings and has been left with little more than a roof over his head and his pension.
“He has shown considerable courage in reporting the matter which undoubtedly has had a serious affect on him.”