A JUDGE has described a conman’s deception of 12 elderly victims as a “mean-spirited and polished” confidence trick.

Albino Chaves, 24, acted as part of a group to dupe pensioners across Essex, using the coronavirus pandemic as a cover.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard the fraudsters selected vulnerable victims, several aged in their 90s and one suffering with dementia, and obtained details including names, dates of birth and bank details.

They would call the victim, pretending to be from their bank and informing them a courier would shortly be arriving at their home to deliver a new card.

When Chaves arrived at their address, he would talk the victim into handing over their bank card - or simply snatch it from their hands.

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Sentencing Chaves to two years and four months imprisonment, Judge David Turner QC said: “The statements which have been obtained from six of the 12 victims makes clear just how distressing and disorientating this has all been.

“It needs no imagination at all to understand their shock, anger, feeling of betrayal and disbelief, feeling of humiliation and foolishness and the attendant nervousness and anxiety which troubled these people.

“This criminality involved 12 losers, four bogus banks and about three months of activity.

“There’s no doubt at all that this was planned, mean-spirited, targeted, quite sophisticated – because these were elaborate and complex frauds.

“Details of real people, with real bank accounts had been obtained prior to the offending by some means or other which you have chosen not to share and which you may not, in fairness, fully know.

“Several people were engaged in a very polished confidence trick perpetrated on the doorstep by you over a significant period of time.

“This was coordinated dishonesty - attendances, phone calls, paraphernalia, bogus gifts, transport and then slick, smooth doorstep narrative about new debit cards and the like.”

Judge Turner said while Chaves’ role was not a “leading” one, it was “significant.”