Jailed: two parasitic fraudsters who preyed on the elderly

News

I told last week how Action Fraud was reporting a sharp rise in reports of courier fraud, the scam in which crooks pose as bank staff or police officers to con victims into handing over their savings.

In just 24 hours it received 120 reports of a caller claiming to be an officer called Eric Shaw spinning a line about how the intended victim must protect their savings by moving the money to a temporary safe account – in reality, one controlled by the crooks.

So it’s good to see one of the prime culprits being locked up.

Nuno Pestana was a leading figure in a gang that phoned victims as old as 96, claiming to be investigating fraud at their bank.

They persuaded 15 of them to hand over a total of more than £200,000.

Now 41-year-old Pestana, from London, has been jailed for six years, with Judge Cartwright remarking in sentencing at Worcester Crown Court that he lived a “champagne lifestyle” with the stolen money.

The arrogant worm even continued running the scam with a mobile phone while in jail awaiting sentencing.

The case brings to 16 the number of members of this particular gang who have been jailed for a total of 33 years.

“These sentences recognise the life-changing amounts that were taken from some of these victims,” said Detective Inspector Emma Wright of West Mercia Police after the hearing.

“Some of the defendants have already been made subject to Confiscation Orders and for others confiscation hearings will follow.”

In a separate series of cases, Essex Police have reported that three couples in their 80s have handed over more than £29,000 to crooks claiming to be investigating counterfeit money.

The gang sent couriers to collect the cash from their homes.

Meanwhile, the crook who acted as the courier for another gang has been jailed for 19 months. Vidunas Tutkus at first denied fraud charges, admitting collecting cash from four victims, but denying knowing that they were being scammed.

The 23-year-old from London changed his plea partway through a trial at Ipswich Crown Court, in a prosecution brought by Essex Police.

The court heard that in a police interview he said he would be phoned and offered a courier job, taking a taxi to the address he was given to collect a package, and was paid from £200 to £600.

He stole £24,800 from victims aged in their 70s and 80s in Elmstead in Essex, Barrowby in Lincolnshire, Wollaston in Northamptonshire, and Winchester in Hampshire between April and June last year.

He was caught when a woman in Ramsgate, Kent, received a call from someone claiming to be a police officer, who asked her to withdraw £4,000 from her bank account.

She did but thankfully the bank notified the police, who were waiting to arrest the “courier” when he arrived to collect the money.

“The judge described this as sophisticated fraud in which Tutkus was sent to collect money from the victims,” said investigating officer Detective Constable Lee Winfield, of Clacton CID after the trial.

“While he was not one of the lead organisers, he still had a key role in the fraud.

“Crimes such as this are really callous and distressing because fraudsters take advantage of people’s trust and are very persuasive.

“I’d ask people to remain vigilant and to contact us if they receive any phone calls of this kind.”