Northern Ireland news

Man (20) who stole over £50,000 from elderly neighbour has been jailed

Jason Sharma, from Glebe Manor in Newtownabbey, admitted two offences

A 20-year old man who stole over £50,000 from an elderly neighbour who regarded him as a "grandson" has been jailed.

Jason Sharma, from Glebe Manor in Newtownabbey, admitted two offences against the 73-year old victim - namely fraud by false representation and acquiring criminal property between July 1 2019 and May 5 2020.

He appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a videolink from Maghaberry, where Mr Justice Fowler imposed a 14-month sentence, divided equally between prison and supervised licence.

The court heard the victim was a reclusive man with no family and who rarely left his house.

He befriended the Sharma family - who moved to Northern Ireland from India - before the defendant was born and became a close family friend, considered as a "grandfather figure" by Sharma.

The pensioner became housebound and depended on others during the pandemic.

When police investigating a suspected fraud regarding his bank accounts on May 4 2020 called at his house, they found him dishevelled, painfully thin and wearing dirty clothes.

The pensioner told police he believed Sharma, who was 18 at the time, was responsible as he had access to his bank accounts and had persuaded him to become involved in currency trading.

It later emerged Sharma took £38,380 from the pensioner's bank accounts and acquired criminal property in the form of £16,670, belonging to the victim.

Sharma also made multiple ATM withdrawals, bought clothes online and transferred money into his own account.

Police examined Sharma's phone and found images of the pensioner's bank cards and statements and Electoral Identity card.

Sharma was arrested and accepted he had access to the accounts and used them for his own benefit.

Whilst none of the money has been paid back, Sharma raised £3,805 which will be paid to the pensioner via a Compensation Order.

Mr Justice Fowler said he accepted Sharma's immaturity at the time of offending, lack of previous offending and efforts made to raise funds to be paid back, but said it "pales into insignificance in relation to the sum lost."

"This involved a series of frauds over a 10-month period," he said.

"They were conducted against an extremely vulnerable, elderly man with mental health problems.

"The conditions he was living in would have been obvious to anyone, in particular the defendant who took on the mantel of grandson - and yet he perpetrated this fraud against the victim without pity or remorse."

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