Police officer who conned vulnerable widow, 81, out of £18,000 after being called to check on her at home is jailed for 20 months
- Constable Sam Smith used the old lady’s bank card to buy expensive goods
- 31-year-old signed for gaming chair using the name of the victim’s late husband
- First met the pensioner when called to her Devon home to check on her welfare
A police officer who conned a vulnerable elderly widow out of more than £18,000 has been jailed for 20 months.
Police Constable Sam Smith befriended a frail 81-year-old and then used her bank and credit cards to buy a number of expensive goods including a 65-inch television, motorcycle gear and computer gaming kit, while he was living in Kingsbridge, Devon.
A court heard how the fraudster even went as far as to sign for gaming chair using the name of the victim’s late husband as part of his spending spree between March and August 2020.
The 31-year-old first met the pensioner, who was suffering from cancer and alcohol-related dementia, while on-duty when he was called to her South Devon home to check on her welfare.
The housebound victim, who died in November 2020, had no family or support network and did not use the internet. Smith’s fraudulent exploits were therefore only uncovered when the victim’s solicitor raised suspicions about the online expenditure on the woman’s bank statement.
Police Constable Sam Smith befriended a frail 81-year-old and then used her bank and credit cards to buy a number of expensive goods
Mr Smith, now of Long Lane, London, admitted eight counts of fraud – totalling £18,276 – when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court today and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
The court heard how Mr Smith first met the victim in November 2019 when he attended her home in the Dartmouth area and subsequently visited the address numerous times while on and off-duty.
The victim lived alone and was struggling to care for herself as her poor health deteriorated further.
Smith went on to spend thousands of pounds online whilst off-duty on items such as gaming and computer kit, a 65-inch television, a soundbar, an air weapon and accessories, and motorcycle gear.
A number of the items were found in Smith’s Kingsbridge home when officers searched the property.
The crimes were uncovered when a solicitor appointed to review the victim’s financial affairs became concerned over the online transactions.
Suspicion was raised as the victim had never embraced the internet, did not use e-mail or own a mobile phone. She had never made purchases on the web or with her cards.
The solicitor’s concerns were originally reported to police in September 2020, but an initial investigation did not identify Mr Smith’s involvement.
However, the case was reviewed and reopened in May 2022 and a link made between the online purchases and Smith.
He was on an unpaid career break when his involvement in the frauds was uncovered. Mr Smith resigned from the Force in July 2023.
Smith went on to spend thousands of pounds online whilst off-duty on items such as gaming and computer kit, a 65-inch television, a soundbar, an air weapon and accessories, and motorcycle gear
Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Emily Sheppard said: ‘I never knew or met the victim as she sadly passed away in November 2020, but I felt I got to know her a little while investigating these offences.
‘She lived an extremely interesting life and remained fiercely independent until her final year when her health sadly deteriorated.
‘Throughout my enquiries she has always been in my thoughts. I am deeply saddened that I have had to investigate the actions of a former colleague for these offences.
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‘His actions do not represent the values held by the majority of officers who diligently do their best to help and serve the public every day.’
Superintendent Jo Arundale, head of Devon and Cornwall Police’s Professional Standards Department, added: ‘We note and welcome the sentencing of Sam Smith today for what are appalling crimes involving a vulnerable victim.
‘Smith’s actions were wrong, illegal and he now faces the consequences of that.
‘All police officers have a privileged role in being part of a Force responsible for the safeguarding of vulnerable people.
‘Devon and Cornwall Police takes any reports of illegal or inappropriate conduct extremely seriously.
‘All officers and staff are expected to abide by the Code of Ethics and ensure the highest standards of behaviour, both on and off duty.
‘I can reassure the public that the overwhelming majority of our officers and staff work diligently to help to keep the public safe, uphold our high standards and provide an exceptional service to our communities.
‘We will always take the appropriate action when standards fall below those expected and continue to learn from any instances where they do.’
The offences happened while Smith was off-duty and was living in Kingsbridge, Devon.
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