Published: 15:10, 19 July 2021
| Updated: 15:35, 19 July 2021
A callous fraudster posed as a policeman as part of an "elaborate" scam to con a pensioner out of their life savings.
Michael O’Neill, of Dartford, initially pretended to be a builder and claimed vital work needed to be completed on the victim’s property in February last year.
When the victim began to suspect a scam and told his neighbour, O’Neill, 38, then posed as a police officer and claimed he was investigating the builders.
The fraudster went on to convince the victim that he needed to pay for court costs and costs relating to releasing his compensation.
O’Neill’s initial scam saw the victim lose £2,250 to the fake builders who claimed that work was required on the front of his house.
When £600 more was demanded, the victim refused to pay and spoke to his neighbour about the possibility of it being a scam.
The concerned 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 to make the payment to the 'court’ and instructed him to say he was buying two Rolex watches if asked.
Both payments on the victim’s cards were declined and he was advised to visit his bank to resolve the issue.
The fraudster then directed the victim to the High Holborn branch of NatWest bank in central London.
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.
O’Neill 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. [on Wednesday July 14].
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.
"We are extremely proud of our High Holborn Branch colleagues who prevented our customer from losing their lifes avings."
“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 life savings 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.”