A CONMAN who posed as a bank employee to defraud an elderly couple suffering dementia, out of their home and £150,000 life savings has been jailed.

Syed Bukhari, 38, formerly of Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, was sentenced to seven years and 11 months at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud offences.

During trips to Dubai and Pakistan, Bukhari, who has links to Blackburn, spent tens of thousands of pounds on Rolex watches, jewellery, designer clothes, bags, phones and a cosmetic procedure to have a wig fitted.

Det Sgt Janette Bashall 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.”

An investigation was launched in January after it was discovered a house belonging to the married elderly couple in Preston had been sold without their knowledge. Enquiries also revealed that numerous bank accounts and credit cards had been taken out in their name. Bukhari had withdrawn from their accounts and stole in excess of £150,000 of their life savings whilst purporting to be their son or a bank employee helping the pair.

His activities began around November 2017 when the couple, the wife, 81, and the husband aged 80, were contacted by a man under the guise of ‘Gerry Patel’ from their bank. He told them that he had resolved fraudulent transactions on their accounts and their house was at risk of repossession but he would help them. He used this to befriend them and gain their trust. He later went as far as befriending their son over the phone, convincing him he was acting on behalf of the bank.

On November 16, the couple’s bank manager made contact with them, suspicious that a £40,000 online loan application had been made in the husband’s name. Neither of the pair could provide an explanation as they had not made the application. Fortunately it was cancelled.

Over the next few weeks, 10 different bank accounts and credit cards in the victims’ names had been opened fraudulently via online applications. One of the accounts had almost £100,000 deposited into it, which was later found to be from savings and investments belonging to the couple. The bank froze the account after becoming suspicious and so Bukhari was unable to access the money.

It was also established that the couple’s mail was redirected which was stopped when the victim asked her postman why she hadn’t had any post. This gave Bukhari the opportunity to intercept any bank cards being delivered to the victims. The couple’s landline phone had also been diverted to a line used by Bukhari.

On January 8, the couple’s son contacted police, concerned his parents had been victims of fraud after seeing letters about overdrafts they had not applied for.

Detectives started an investigation and it was revealed that the couple had been driven round various banks in Chorley, Blackburn and Manchester.

It was also found that their house - where they had lived for 40 years - had been sold on December 21 to a private company without their knowledge for less than the market value.

DS Bashall added: "“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."