Two fraudsters have been jailed after they pretended to be NHS workers before stealing a pensioner’s bank card and £600 savings.
Florin Butonasi, 31, and Andra-Mihaela Gheorghe, 29, targeted their 82-year-old victim as she paid for shopping at Asda in South Shields, North-East England.
After watching the elderly woman insert her pin, the pair followed her all the way to her front door – where they falsely claimed to be NHS workers conducting a survey in the community.
It was only when Butonasi and Gheorghe had left the victim realised her purse had gone missing.
She went on to learn her bank card had been used by the duo to complete a number of transactions, with £500 withdrawn at a nearby cash machine and a further £100 worth of goods bought at TK Maxx in Byker.
Butonasi and Gheorghe both admitted burglary and four counts of fraud by false representation at Newcastle Crown Court on Wednesday.
Butonasi, of Kirkcaldy, Fife, was jailed for four years while Gheorghe, of Jasper Road, London, was sentenced to three years and eight months behind bars.
Both of the suspects are originally from Romania.
Detective Sergeant Adele Reed, of Northumbria Police, led the investigation and has condemned the pair for the scam.
“This is an abhorrent crime at any time, but particularly when we are all pulling together to tackle the pandemic and looking out for the most vulnerable people in our communities,” he said.
“Butonasi and Gheorghe should be ashamed of themselves and their actions, preying on an elderly woman who they clearly identified as vulnerable while loitering in the supermarket.
“They then proceeded to follow her home, earn her trust before callously taking her purse and fraudulently use her bank card.”
Det Sgt Reed added: “I hope this case also highlights the importance that the public, especially those living alone, are aware of this type of criminality and do not fall victim themselves.
“Please keep checking on loved ones who may be isolated and who are the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Do not invite strangers into your home or give out any personal details, and always ask for identification if workers you do not know knock at your door.”