A gambling addict conned a vulnerable pensioner out of £60,000 of his life savings after offering to carry out gardening work he never completed.
Mark Wild, 29, cold called at the 80-year-old victim's home in South Hylton, Sunderland, in January 2010, using the alias Paul Collins.
He began by pressurising the pensioner into paying £200 for gardening work he did not carry out, then began borrowing large sums of money.
Wild also conned three more elderly people, one of whom has since died, in similar garden work scams.
Recorder Eric Elliott QC jailed Wild, of Brockwell Street, Bowburn, County Durham, for three years.
He said: "For any older person to suffer any loss is bad, but for a person of 80 years to suffer such great loss hardly bears thinking about.
"You literally raided his bank account with repetition. The particularly serious nature is this was targeting of elderly and vulnerable people.
"In my view it was not only wicked behaviour, it was callous and cruel."
Prosecutor Tim Gittins told the court Wild came up with a series of excuses to to borrow money, including a claim he was being charged £300 every 12 hours by his bank for running up an overdraft.
The victim handed over the cash and Wild signed a series of IOUs using the fake name.
The scam continued even when the pensioner's neighbours became suspicious.
Mr Gittens said: "He had begun to be seen by neighbours and they were concerned for him and tried to warn to defendant off, effectively threatening him that they knew what he was up to.
"That led to the defendant resorting to parking around the corner and entering the man's property via the rear garden in an attempt to evade the neighbours."
Investigations revealed Wild had targeted three more pensioners in 2011.
A 78-year-old woman from Whitburn, South Tyneside, was convinced to hand over £770 for gardening work she did not need and became distressed when Wild returned to the property asking for more cash.
Mr Gittins said: "The victim's daughter described a deterioration in the pensioner's well-being and says effectively the effect on her and on her confidence was to destroy what remained of her independent living.
"She had become particularly distressed when incidents had jogged her memory as to what the defendant had done."
An 86-year-old woman from Washington was targeted at a time when her family had installed a covert camera in her property because money had been handed over to bogus gardeners.
The footage shows the woman handing over £130 to Wild for removing some bushes from her garden.
While the pensioner was handing the money over, Wild was blocking a notice put up in the woman's kitchen to remind her not to pay anyone saying they had done work at the house.
A 70-year-old man from Sunderland, who has since died, was conned into handing over more than £4,000 for work his brother had already paid for.
Jamie Adams, defending, said Wild has a pathological gambling addiction which his family said leaves him "frothing at the mouth."
Mr Adams said Wild is otherwise intelligent and articulate and added: "The psychiatric report shows what has been driving this man is nothing short of an illness.
"It is an addiction to gambling which frankly completely overwhelms him and drives him to do what he has done."
More from News
- Newcastle Primary Teachers Win Outstanding School Team Of The Year
- NE1’s Newcastle Fashion Week: Royal Wedding Catwalk
- Shannen Steinson Is Crowned Miss Newcastle 2013
- Tyne Tees Models Strut Their Stuff At Intu Eldon Square Fashion Show
- students mind
- Newcastle United Dad-To-Be Davide Santon Spared 99mph Driving Ban
- Northumbria University Graduation Ball Illness Thought To Be Norovirus
- Pictures: Meet The Finalists Hoping To Be Crowned Miss Newcastle 2013