Sunderland fraudster conned cash from widow on Christmas Eve after South Shields taxi claim the previous day

A cruel fraudster who conned cash from a widow on Christmas Eve has kept his freedom.

Ryan Stoker went to the 73-year-old victim's home in Sunderland on December 23, 2020, and borrowed £40 then returned on December 24 to get £40 more.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the pensioner had agreed to help because the 32-year-old conman claimed his aunt lived over the road and that all of the cash machines in the area were broken.

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She had been reluctant to hand over any money during his second visit but Stoker's behaviour made her "scared" and she gave him the cash so he would leave.

Ryan Stoker.

The court heard the formerly active pensioner, who would make craft items to sell for charity, was so affected by what Stoker did that she moved out of her home and into sheltered accommodation and has since suffered a stroke.

Stoker had been due to be sentenced earlier this year but Judge Amanda Rippon deferred the hearing to see if he could stay out of trouble and continue to make good progress, while being under the supervision of the probation service.

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When the case was back in court this morning, it was confirmed Stoker has stayed out of trouble since the last hearing.

Judge Amanda Rippon said Stoker's compliance report from probation officials was "very good" and added: "I don't think I have seen one as good as that for some considerable time."

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The judge said Stoker appears to have grasped the opportunity that was given to him and has since found work.

Stoker was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with an order to pay the victim £200 compensation.

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Judge Rippon warned Stoker that targeting the elderly is "disgraceful, mean and plain wicked" and told him: "This is your last chance as far as I am concerned."

Prosecutor Neil Jones told the court Stoker's offending was exposed when the victim visited her sister on December 30 2020, where she "wasn't her normal self" and told her sibling "I've done something stupid".

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When the pensioner told her sister exactly what had happened the police were called.

Mr Jones said: "On December 23 2020 the defendant knocked on her door and when she answered he asked if he could use her phone to ring for a taxi.

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"He told her his aunt lived across the road.

"She let him in an permitted him to use her telephone to ring a taxi.

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"He then asked her to lend him £40 for a taxi to South Shields because, he said, the cash machines were not working.

"She gave him the money and he left her house."

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The court heard when Stoker returned the following day, which was Christmas Eve, the victim was reluctant to hand over any more money.

Mr Jones said: "He asked to borrow another £40 in cash because the cash machines, he said, were still not working.

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"She told him she did not have any money in the house, at which point he became agitated and then she became scared, so in order to get him out she gave him the £40."

The victim's sister said in a statement, which was read in court: "Before this she was independent and was out most days, on her own or with family.

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"She enjoyed getting involved with charities and making crafts to sell.

"She had lived at that address around 13 years, initially with her husband, who died some years ago.

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"She had loved her house and has fond memories of living there.

"She was made to feel uncomfortable at home and is now in sheltered accommodation.

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"She should have been able to remain in her own home and would have done so had it not been for the person responsible for this deliberately targeting someone vulnerable.

"She suffered a stroke following the incident. The hospital said stress from the incident was likely to have contributed to the cause of that."

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Mr Jones said there was no evidence to conclude that the stroke was directly caused by the offences.

Stoker, of Brockley Street, Sunderland, who has 60 previous convictions and has committed similar offences, admitted two charges of fraud by false representation.

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Sam Faulks, defending, said Stoker had been on a "downward spiral" following the death of his father.