A CALLOUS fraudster who conned elderly victims into handing over their bank cards before withdrawing more than £11,000 in cash has been put behind bars.

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 there was a “depressing familiarity” to the nature of the fraud carried out by Chaves and his fellow scammers.

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 then 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.

Chaves would then arrive on their doorstep, sometimes donning a high visibility jacket to give the appearance of legitimacy.

Judge David Turner QC said: “Some of the victims handed over their cards, some of them didn’t.

“On more than one occasion a card was snatched from the victim’s hand.

“Sometimes after that they were followed into their addresses.”

In a detailed note to the judge, prosecutor David Patience laid how Chaves targeted victims across Essex, including in Tiptree, Clacton, Colchester, Frinton and Braintree.

The fraudsters often quoted the coronavirus pandemic, telling victims that new bank cards would be delivered by hand due to “postal difficulties.”

One 92-year-old, from Colchester, who had lived alone for 40 years, received a phone call from a man purporting to be the manager of Barclays.

He said that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank was “going round to swap bank cards with their customers.”

Chaves then arrived at her front door while the scammer was still on the line.

He was holding a white envelope in his hand and explained it contained her new bank card.

When the victim ventured into her living room to retrieve her old card, Chaves followed her and snatched the card from her hand before fleeing.

When she attempted to call 999, the fraudulent caller was still on the line and pretended to be a call handler.

She was persuaded to give her pin number on the basis this would be needed to cancel her card.

By the time she was able to reach someone at the genuine bank, the scammers had withdrawn £2,000.

In one statement, an elderly victim from Frinton said: “When he snatched the card from me, I tried to run after him, but saw all the other men in the car. I am just concerned they will come back one day and attack me.”

Chaves, of Bentry Road, Dagenham, admitted 12 charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, all carried out between February and April.

Three of the offences were committed after Chaves’ initial arrest, while he was on police bail.

He was jailed for two years and four months.

Read more>>>Judge blasts 'mean-spirited' conman who snatched bank cards from the elderly

Heartfelt victim impact statements shared a common thread, detailing the anger, upset, embarrassment and shame felt by those conned by Chaves.

Christopher Martin, mitigating, said Chaves had never been in trouble with the law before and had acted as a “foot soldier” to a more sophisticated operation.