Man jailed after pretending to be police officer in 'elaborate' scam to defraud pensioner of £92,000

·3-min read
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The victim arranged a meeting with O’Neill in the Hatton Garden area of central London to complete the transaction. (Google maps)

A man has been jailed after pretending to be a police officer as part of an “elaborate” scam to swindle a pensioner out of their lifesavings.

Michael O’Neill, 38, tried to steal more than £92,000 from the victim last year. 

He initially pretended to be a builder and claimed vital work costing £2,250 needed to be completed on the victim’s property in February.

He then asked for £600 which the victim refused to pay and spoke to his neighbour about the possibility of it being a scam.

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The neighbour called the police and the victim was visited by genuine detectives from the Met Police.

A few weeks later, O’Neill visited the victim and requested £15,000 to cover costs for an alleged court case involving the builders, which the victim paid via cheque.

The victim was also told he would be entitled to £151,000 in compensation. 

However, he would need to pay £75,000 to the court via debit card.

The victim arranged a meeting with O’Neill in the Hatton Garden area of central London to complete the transaction.

O’Neill directed the victim to a watch shop in order to make the payment to the "court" and instructed him to say that he was buying two Rolex watches if asked.

But both payments on the victim’s cards were declined.

O'Neill then directed the victim to the nearby High Holborn branch of NatWest bank to resolve the issue. 

Staff at the branch were sceptical about the circumstances surrounding the payment, which led them to contact the police.

Officers from City of London Police quickly circulated a description of the suspect, resulting in O’Neill’s arrest around an hour after the victim first entered the bank.

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O’Neill, of Dartford, Kent, was sentenced to 21 months in jail, suspended for two years, 30 days rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to pay £1,000 within three months, for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation at Inner London Crown Court.

Detective Constable Phillip Wilkes, of City of London Police CID, said: “This was a complex and convincing scam, thought to have been orchestrated by a number of fraudsters who preyed on an elderly, unwell victim.

“Thanks to the eagle-eyed NatWest staff who noticed a suspicious transaction, and the concerned neighbour who reported the initial case to the police, O’Neill has been brought to justice.”

He added: “This case demonstrates that, whilst there are some bad apples in society looking to exploit the vulnerable, there are still many caring individuals willing to look out for one another and help the police in protecting our more vulnerable community members from crime.”

Jason Costain, head of fraud prevention at NatWest, said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to help our customers, especially when they have been the victim of a scam.

“All of our branch colleagues are trained in the banking protocol and we have successfully prevented hundreds of Natwest Group customers from being scammed since the Banking Protocol was launched in 2016.”

He added: “We are extremely proud of our High Holborn Branch colleagues who prevented our customer from losing their lifesavings and we are grateful for the support from the City of London Police.

“Since 2016 the Banking Protocol has helped countless victims across the UK, prevented over £100 million falling into the hands of criminals and has led to 664 arrests being made.”

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