A ‘heartless liar’ conned an elderly couple suffering from dementia out of their home and life savings before getting a hair transplant on a luxury spending spree.
Syed Bukhari, formerly of Accrington, blew tens of thousands of pounds buying Rolex watches, jewellery, designer clothes, and phones and made six trips to Pakistan and Dubai, travelling first class.
On one occasion he spent £11,000 on a stay at a Dubai hotel.
Senior officers branded him ‘a callous, deeply manipulative and heartless liar’ as he was jailed for more than seven years.
Bukhari, 38, targeted an 81-year-old woman and her 80-year-old husband, by posing as a bank worker called ‘Gerry Patel’.
But police believe others were involved in the scam.
The couple had ‘worked hard all their lives to be able to retire in some comfort’, but Bukhari ‘destroyed this’, officers said.
An investigation was launched in January this year when it was discovered a house belonging to the 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Bukhari had withdrawn from their existing accounts and stole in excess of £150,000 of their life savings whilst purporting to be their son or a bank employee helping the pair.
Bukhari had telephoned them in November last year as ‘Gerry’ to say he had resolved fraudulent transactions on their accounts and their house was at risk of repossession, but claimed he would help them.
But within weeks, ten 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.
It was established that the couple’s mail was also 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.
In addition, the couple’s landline phone had also been diverted to a line used by Bukhari.
All of this was to gain control of the victims’ existing accounts and intercept communication from the new accounts that had been set up.
Bukhari, of Deepdale Avenue, Withington, Manchester, was sentenced to seven years and 11 months in prison at Preston Crown Court on Monday after previously pleading guilty to fraud offences at an earlier hearing.
Speaking after the sentencing, Det Sgt 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.
“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.
“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.”
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