Two men from South Tyneside who ripped off elderly people by posing as police officers have been jailed.
Suhel Uddin, 40, and Saeed Laskar, 22, were part of an operation to persuade four victims to hand over more than £22,000.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Uddin, of Newmarket Walk, and Laskar, of Palmerston Street, both South Shields, were part of a gang who contacted elderly people, claiming to be Metropolitan Police officers investigating money being taken from their bank accounts.
Over 50 people were contacted in this way - with four handing over cash in the belief they were helping a police investigation into fraud by bank staff.
Uddin was jailed for four and a half years and Laskar for four years after they admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The court heard that they could have netted £250,000 if all their intended victims had fallen for the scam.
Tom Moran, prosecuting, said: “This was a sophisticated scam to trick elderly people into handing over large sums of money.
“Over 50 were targeted, the majority in their 70s or 80s. The oldest was 95. The vast majority smelled a rat, but four people handed over a total more than £22,000.”
Mr Moran said the scam involved obtaining telephone numbers of people they believed were elderly and contacting them to say they were police officers from the Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad.
They were told fraudulent activity on their accounts was suspected by bank staff and they were encouraged to withdraw large sums of money so it could be tested for fingerprints or checked to see if it was counterfeit.
They told the victims not to tell the bank it was for the police.
Mr Moran said: “Seven did go to their bank and withdraw thousands of pounds. Fortunately three of them realised they had been tricked before handing over the money.”
The victims were told a ‘police courier’ would come and collect the cash from their home address.
Mr Moran told the court Uddin instructed Laskar to collect the money from the homes of the four victims.
He added: “Only when it was too late did the victim realise they had been deceived.”
The scam took place over two days in October 2014 and two weeks in July 2015.
The court heard Laskar was traced and arrested in July 2015.
Uddin, who had been out of the country in Bangladesh, was later arrested as a result of telephone records.
Brian Hegarty, defending Uddin, told the court he was “appalled” that he became involved in this offending and that he wanted to “express his remorse”.
Matthew Crow, defending Lasker, said: “He attended four houses. He didn’t know the extend of the operation.
“He needed the money, he was much like Mr Uddin, he attempted to pay for a cannabis addiction and he was in some debt.”
Judge Penny Moreland told the pair they had committed one of the most “heartless” frauds she had seen.