A cruel conman who helped steal wedding rings from an elderly widow has been jailed for over seven years.
Callous Crimea Price, 33, was part of a gang which a judge said “left a trail of misery” across the West Midlands targeting elderly widows and cancer patients.
One of his victims was stripped of £2,000 cash along with an engagement ring, her dead husband’s wedding ring and other jewellery belonging to her dead sister.
In total over a five month period dad-of-two Price, a member of the travelling community, along with others pocketed around £18,000 from 50 victims.
As he was jailed for seven-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court it was heard the offences were committed while Price was on bail and the subject of a suspended sentence for similar offences.
He was jailed for 54 weeks in February for a similar raid against a 98-year-old woman who was conned of £300.
Recorder Jacob Hallam told the conman, of Long Lane, Great Wyrley near Walsall; “Between September and February you and your fellow conspirators left a trail of misery and fear across the West Midlands.
“You targeted the elderly and vulnerable in their own home to gain money and valuables.
“The effect on many was profound and will no doubt remain with them for what remains of their lives.
“A stark message must be sent to those who would prey on them as you and your co-conspirators did.”
Price and his gang targeted pensioners in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sutton Coldfield, West Bromwich, Rugeley, and Cannock.
Posing as officials they would tell householders a rat infestation had been reported and demanded cash to deal with it.
Others were told a skip had to be hired to clear away garden debris or that a leak had been discovered.
While some were asked to hand over cash directly, others were distracted while a member of the gang searched cupboards and drawers hunting for cash and valuables.
Jennifer Josephs, prosecuting, said; “This was a cynical plan to visit the elderly, the easily confused or persuaded and to deceive them into gaining access to their property and their money.
“Occupants were told there were rats in the garden, that neighbours had complained, and these men were from the council and could sort it out.
“There would always be a cost for this job, usually a few hundred pounds.
“Usually people would hand over their money to the nice man from the council who would then go to get a receipt or poison for the rats.
“He would never come back, the money would be gone.”
Ms Josephs said Price was connected to the offences by mobile phone evidence which placed his two mobile phones in the areas of 49 of the offence offences at the times the pensioners were targeted.
She said; “Once may be a coincidence, twice maybe.
“But with 49 offences, the coincidence is too great.”
Initially denying an offence of conspiracy to defraud, Price eventually changed his plea to guilty three days into his trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
Martin Liddiard, defending, said Price had been drawn into the conspiracy to make money for his children and the children of his brother-in-law who died last year.
He said the dad had acted as a driver and had not directly taken money from any of the gang’s victims.
Locking up the unscrupulous conman Recorder Hallam said; “This is not an offence that occurred spontaneously.
“It was planned, deliberate and long lasting.
“The evidence against you was overwhelming.
“There were 50 victims and what they all had in common was their age.
“They were all elderly, some exceedingly, the oldest being 96.
“Many were in poor physical health, some suffering from cancer.
“It is precisely because of these factors they were targeted by you.
“All 50 were entitled to hope that because of their age and infirmity they would be treated with kindness and respect.
“Instead of seeing them in that light, you and your fellow conspirators saw them simply as targets.
“You ruthlessly exploited that time after time over the course of a five month period.”