A BURGLARY gang from South Tyneside posed as detectives to con their way into pensioners’ homes and target their life savings.
Paul Momat was at the head of a crime team who carried clipboards, bogus search warrants and paperwork to convince pre-selected, vulnerable victims, who had been thoroughly researched, they must hand over cash or face going to jail.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the gang’s “foot soldiers” used latex gloves to carry out thorough searches and even put on fake accents in a bid to be convincing and to try and avoid ever being caught.
James Adkin, prosecuting, told the court one 68-year-old stroke victim, who was the mother of an actual police officer, handed over £25,000 that had taken her over thirty years to save up.
One couple, who handed over £4,500, was kidnapped from their home and taken to one of their elderly parents’ houses so they too could be ripped off by over £5,000.
The gang also targeted a workman who was convinced to come from Scotland to get a cheap deal on some equipment but was ordered to hand over his van, phone and £7,500 in cash to men, who were carrying handcuffs and issuing jail threats while posing as cops.
Mr Adkin told the court: “This case concerns the commission of a series of what the prosecution say are sophisticated offences by a team of criminals.
“Some of the burglaries share a particular modus operandi, the offenders impersonate police officers.
“They have clipboards, documentation they say are search warrants and speak using language and expressions members of the public would associate with the police.
“Their deception mean they were welcomed across the threshold of a number of properties and claimed to be there to confiscate money, when in fact they simply stole from those individuals.
“Almost all of the offences have a particular feature, that the victims are targeted and those who commit the offences appear to be armed with confidential information about the personal circumstances of their victims and the fact they had ready access to cash.
“It is still unclear exactly how the defendants came by this information but on any view the offences are carefully co-ordinated with the victims specifically selected.”
The gang claimed the search warrants were obtained under the Proceeds of Crime Act and allowed them to remove any cash the victims had in their homes.
Mr Adkin said Momat distanced himself from the crime scenes but was rarely far away and kept in touch with his gang before, during and after the raids.
Momat, 27, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, is already serving eight years behind bars for masterminding am armed raid at a businessman’s home.
Judge Brian Forster QC gave him an extra six years to be added on to his sentence after he admitted conspiracy to burgle and steal.
Gareth Carey, 26, of Lisle Road, South Shields, was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to steal and kidnap, which he admitted.
Carl Hudson, 26, of Redhead Avenue, South Shields, got four years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to burgle and kidnap.
Hudson previously received a two year prison term for his involvement in the workman scam.
Simon Lancaster, 23, will be sentenced for conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to steal and kidnap, which he admitted, next week.
Judge Forster said hew as satisfied Momat played the “organisational role” and told him: “The others were under your direction.”
He told the gang: “You acted with callous disregard for the vulnerable victims.
“Their frailty must have been apparent to you as you carried out the offences.
“The impact of this heartless offending has been enormous.
“The court has a clear duty to deter offending in which people are preyed on, vulnerable people, and furthermore, where they impersonate police officers.”
Judge Forster said the gang showed a mean determination to get their hands on whatever they could.
The court heard in July 2012 Carey and Hudson turned up at a 68-year-old frail widow’s home in Gateshead, claiming to be from CID and took the £25,000 savings cash she had, along with £2,600 of her son’s savings.
The victim, whose son is a police officer, told police she was terrified and felt such a fool after handing over her lifesavings but said the pair were “so plausible and credible.”
Carey and Hudson targeted a second house, in Walker, but made off empty handed after being questioned in detail by the householder.
A retired jeweller was targeted by Carey and Hudson, who claimed they were from Sunderland police, but they again made off with only film from a CCTV system after realising they were being filmed.
In a deviation from the usual scam, the gang targeted another house in Newcastle by smashing their way in through a door panel.
In January 2013 Carey and Lancaster kidnapped a couple from Gateshead and drove them a few miles to one of their parent’s houses so the older couple “would not be scared”.
Defence barristers said the men are intelligent and come from good backgrounds, with money problems and debt at the heart of the offending.