A fraudster who swindled or stole from women with serious health conditions has started a long prison sentence.

Douglas Gribbin, 42, subjected a 68-year-old widow with a serious illness to an “elaborate deception” as he stole her jewellery and bank card.

He took her and her late husband’s wedding rings and pawned them in December last year, having befriended her and become a “permanent fixture in her life”.

The swindler first approached her pointing out a problem with the drive of her Middlesbrough home, said prosecutor Victoria Lamballe.

He later dug up her driveway and replaced pipes for £1,300 and the woman, who had breathing difficulties and could not walk any distance, was pleased with the work.

Gribben started visiting her almost daily and she came to regard him as a friend, Teesside Crown Court heard.

‘She had not eaten for five days’

She paid him hundreds of pounds to pave her drive, fix a handrail and produce a portfolio of photos. At one point he drove her to a bank to withdraw £800 for him.

Gribben continually promised the work but it was never done.

Douglas Gribbin (Image: Cleveland Police)

He stole her bank card and withdrew more than £2,000 from her account in November and December, at one point intercepting her mail carrying a new PIN.

He pretended to deal with the bank on her behalf as she struggled financially without access to the account, once telling him she had not eaten for five days.

‘At the end of her tether’

The deceit dawned on the woman when she contacted her bank to find she was £9 overdrawn when she should have had thousands of pounds.

She discovered jewellery of sentimental value were missing.

Gribbin also knocked on the door of a couple in their 60s in Hartlepool as a salesman, saying their driveway needed renovation.

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He was paid £11,450 for legitimate work on the driveway and back garden in November 2016, and the couple were happy with it.

But when they noticed weeds growing through their driveway, which Gribbin had promised would not happen, he offered to carry out more work on the house for £7,000.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease

The 65-year-old woman who lived there handed over thousands of pounds, including £5,400 in January and February 2017.

When she asked for some money back, he made a partial repayment and claimed he was at risk of bankruptcy.

Shortly after she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Gribbin texted her while she was on holiday saying weather had stopped some of the work.

Her health worsened to the extent that she would not walk or speak and could communicate only by typing through a tablet.

She texted him arranging work dates, only for him not to turn up.

Spent the money on other things

Despite being told the extent of her condition, Gribbin did not complete the work and confessed he had spent the money on other things.

He claimed he would repay it and lied to the couple repeatedly about why he had not turned up.

He claimed it was a legitimate business deal gone wrong, not a fraud, and said he always intended to pay the money back.

Finally he cold-called a 75-year-old Stockton woman and said he would carry out work for £1,075, which he did not do, and got her to sign contracts which breached consumer protection regulations.

Previously left pensioner with just 7p

Gribbin, of Moorcock Close, Bankfields, Middlesbrough, admitted two charges of fraud, one of theft, two of possessing criminal property and three of unfair trading.

He was jailed for 20 months for theft after he helped himself to £3,000 from a 73-year-old woman’s bank account to feed a cocaine habit.

She had given him her card and PIN to do shopping, but she found she had just 7p in her account when she wanted to treat her grandson.

The vulnerable pensioner, who had suffered a stroke and needed care, was hospitalised four weeks after the theft came to light.

In 2016, a judge told him: “It would be an outrage if you walked out of this court.”

This time Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, jailed Gribbin for five-and-a-half years.

Gribbin was given a 10-year restraining order banning him from contacting victims or going to their homes.

© 2018 Tees Info

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