A Dartford conman who scammed a sick pensioner out of £75,000 during an elaborate fraud which included impersonating a police officer has had his jail sentence increased.

Michael O’Neill, of Spielman Road, managed to swindle his victim out of thousands of pounds by first pretending to be a builder and then, when questions were asked, a policeman.

The 38-year-old’s complex scam began when he claimed “vital work” needed to be completed on the front of the victim’s property in February 2020.

The victim became suspicious after O’Neill, who had already swindled him out of £2,250, demanded an extra £600 for the fake works.

News Shopper:

A neighbour called the police after the victim refused to pay and shared his concern with them, saying he suspected it was a scam.

But a few weeks later, O’Neill returned to the property posing as a police officer who was investigating the fraud.

He convinced the victim to hand over a £15,000 cheque to cover the costs of a made-up court case involving the builders.

The victim was also told he would be entitled to £151,000 in compensation, provided he pay the court £75,000 via debit card.

To complete the transaction, O’Neill arranged to meet the victim in London’s Hatton Garden area.

When they met, he directed the victim to a nearby watch shop in order to make the ‘court payment’.

If questioned, he told the pensioner to say he was purchasing two Rolex watches.

Fortunately, both payments on the victim’s card were declined and he was advised to visit the bank to resolve the issue.

The fraudster then directed the victim to the High Holborn branch of NatWest where staff, realising something was wrong, called the police.

O’Neill was arrested within the hour after officers circulated a description of him.

Detective Constable Phillip Wilkes said: “I am very pleased that O’Neill’s sentence has been increased following the referral to the Court of Appeal as it’s the justice the victim deserves.

“This was a complex and convincing scam, thought to have been orchestrated by a number of fraudsters who preyed on an elderly, unwell victim.

“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.

“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.”

O’Neill was sentenced to twenty-one months in prison suspended for two years at Inner London Crown Court on Wednesday July 14, 2021.

He was also given a 30 days rehabilitation activity requirement and ordered to pay £1,000 within 3 months for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

But his case was later referred to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme by the Solicitor General.

The Court found the sentence to be unduly lenient on and increased it to three years and one month imprisonment.

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.

“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 £100m falling into the hands of criminals and has led to 664 arrests being made.”

Have you got a story for us? You can contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletters to get updates sent straight to your inbox.