A man’s been jailed for conning an elderly Preston couple out of their home and savings.
38-year-old Syed Bukhari was sentenced to seven years and 11 months.
An investigation was launched in January after their house was sold without their knowledge. It was also found that numerous bank accounts and credits cards had been taken out in their name.
Bukhari had stolen over £150,000 from their life savings whilst pretending to be their son or a bank employee.
In November, the couple were visited by a PCSO and financial investigator after suspicions were raised, but the woman refused any help – having faith that Bukhari was assisting them.
Bank staff eventually contacted the police when the husband turned up with details on a bank account he had no knowledge of. He was also really confused.
Two PCSO’s visited the couple later that day at their home – but Bukhari answered the door.
He used his guise as a bank employee to deter suspicion and got several bank accounts reopened – with all of the money being transferred or withdrawn.
The couple’s mail was also redirected, so Bukhari could intercept bank cards being delivered to them. It was cancelled by the Royal Mail when the wife complained she wasn’t receiving post.
Their landline was also redirected and later changed.
In January, the couple’s real son contacted the police with concerns his parents had been victims of fraud after seeing letters about several overdrafts they hadn’t applied for.
The investigation revealed the couple were driven to banks across the county to open new account, reactivate frozen ones and transfer money.
Officers also found their home – which they’d lived in for 40 years – had also been sold in December 2017.
It was revealed Bukhari travelled to Dubai and Pakistan first class several times – spending tens of thousands of pounds on watches, jewellery, clothing, bags, phones and a hair transplant.
When arrested he was found to be in possession of the couple’s identity documents and documentation relating to them and the fraudulent accounts.
Speaking after the sentencing DS Janette Bashall from Lancashire’s Economic Crime Unit said:
“Bukhari is a callous, deeply manipulative and heartless liar who saw fit to take over the lives of an innocent, vulnerable elderly couple.
“They had worked hard all their lives to be able to retire in some comfort yet he saw to destroy this by taking their home and hard earned savings, defrauding them of in excess of £350,000, most of which has been spent and not recovered.
“He racked up thousands of pounds of debt whilst travelling extensively on luxury trips to Dubai and Pakistan.
“It is particularly callous that he took full advantage of the pair, exploiting their vulnerability and lack of capacity due to their dementia.
“In fact, I am convinced he saw this as an opportunity to further his criminal behaviour.
“This has had a significant impact upon the couple’s health to the extent they cannot live as independently as they previously have.
“The extent of the daily contact that the fraudster had with this couple has led to them being so confused that to this day they still believe they were being helped by a genuine bank employee.
“The family are continuing to try to get back the house that he manipulated the couple in to signing to sell.
“They didn’t even know it had been sold and did not have the capacity to make that decision.
“Furthermore, the genuine purchaser of the house will be at a significant loss if it is returned to the rightful owners.
“We believe that Bukhari was the instigator in this fraud but he did not act alone.
“The investigation will continue to identify further offenders and an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act has been made to seize assets from him.
“We are still determined to identify those involved and so if you think you know who they may be, please contact us.
“If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of something similar, please report it to us or Action Fraud on 0800 123 2040.”
For advice on how to spot the signs and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please visit Action Fraud’s website at actionfraud.police.uk