A ROGUE trader who ‘destroyed’ a 93-year-old’s life cheated 10 pensioners out of £182,000, a court heard.
Tony Smith befriended his victims, winning their trust, making one woman from Hayling Island ‘fall in love’ with him.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard Smith even went and took communion with her, all while swindling her out of £25,000 for work worth far less.
Tim Compton, prosecuting, told how Smith spent the ill-gotten thousands on trips to Haven Holidays, Parkdean, Mill Rythe in Hayling, and a six-week stay at Lady’s Mile Holiday Park.
Dad-of-three Smith, 41, paid extra for a hot tub and to have the heating on 24 hours a day, the court heard.
But his two-year con fell apart when police traced him to the Lady’s Mile park in Dawlish, Devon.
‘He was living, bluntly, in some degree of comfort,’ Mr Compton said.
‘He was recorded as saying to his wife “at least I got you a holiday”.’
Sitting in the dock Smith, who had gone on the run between February and June and appeared on BBC Crimewatch, showed no emotion as judge Linda Sullivan QC jailed him for four years.
Smith befriended his victims, told some they had asbestos that needed removing, and carried out poor work or none at all.
Addressing the conman about his 93-year-old victim, the judge said: ‘You have totally destroyed her life, she totally lost her independence. She was a woman of substantial standing with a large family.
‘You came between them by insinuating yourself into her life, making her, in effect it seems, fall in love you with, taking communion with her.
‘You used her not only in a fraudulent way but you ruined her.’
The court heard Smith had known her for three years, used her bank cards in Torquay, and threatened her son when police got involved.
He had cold-called her claiming she had a leaky roof.
Roofer Smith, of Plaistow Road, admitted participating in a fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader between June 26, 2014, and July 1, 2016. He did so on a basis he only made £57,000.
Prosecutors, who said he made £147,000 from six victims, and £35,000 from four others, did not argue the figure as he would have received a similar sentence.
A 72-year-old victim, from Camberely, watched Smith being sentenced. He said it was ‘justice’ but Smith’s actions had been ‘shocking’.
Sentencing, the judge added: ‘It’s submitted almost as mitigation that you were nice to them but in my judgement it’s clear that you groomed them and were intentionally dishonest in order to extract substantial sums of money from them, either in cash or to go with you to withdraw from bank accounts or, on a number of occasions, you in effect stole their cards and withdrew from their accounts without their knowledge.’
Yasmin Aslam, for Smith, who had no previous, said he ‘lost his bottle’ and ‘went into hiding’ after running late for court in February. He is ‘very sorry’ for causing his victims grief, she said.
She said Smith needs crutches, injured his back, and turned to fraud to pay for gambling and drinking.