An electrician from South Tyneside who was part of a burglary gang who posed as detectives to con their way into pensioners’ homes and target their life savings has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Simon Lancaster, of Fennel Grove, South Shields, was a member 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.
Prosecutor James Adkin told Newcastle Crown Court, one 68-year-old stroke victim handed over £25,000 that had taken her over 30 years to save.
One couple, who handed over £4,500, were kidnapped from their home and taken to one of their elderly parents’ houses so they too could be ripped off by more than £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.
Prosecutor James Adkin told the court: “Almost all of the offences have a particular feature, that the victims are targeted, and those who commit the offences appeared 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 the offences were 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.
Paul Momat, 27, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, is already serving eight years behind bars for masterminding an armed raid at a businessman’s home. At Newcastle Crown Court on Friday Judge Brian Forster QC gave him an extra six years after he admitted conspiracy to burgle and steal.
At the same hearing 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, and Carl Hudson, 26, of Redhead Avenue, South Shields, got four years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to burgle and kidnap.
Lancaster, 23, admitted conspiracy to burgle and steal and kidnap and was yesterday sentenced to three and a half years behind bars.
Glen Gatland, defending, said Lancaster got involved because he went to school with the other men, and got “sucked in”.
Mr Gatland added: “He is thoroughly ashamed of his involvement in this offending”.
Judge Brian Forster QC said the scam was “heartless” and said Lancaster was “someone who has considerable potential who made a very serious mistake”.