A CRUEL fraudster who conned cash out of kind strangers while turning up at their doors asking for help has been spared jail.
James Hayes pretended he needed money to travel to another part of the country because his partner was about to give birth.
He even invented a story that he was locked out of his home and he had to make a journey to see his other because she had the only key.
Newcastle Crown Court heard kind householders were taken in by his hard luck stories and handed over up to £80 each in loans – which the 39-year-old used to buy alcohol and never had any intention of paying back.
A total of seven homes in Sunderland, Washington, Murton and South Shields were targeted in the scam between November and January.
The court heard one elderly couple, who lived in Washington, handed over £80 they had put away for their Christmas lunch out.
They had to cancel the meal – and lose the £20 deposit – when they realised they had been duped by Hayes’ pathetic tale of woe.
The couple said their outlook to life had been changed by the experience, and they would “think twice” before offering help to anyone again because they now felt less trusting in people.
Other victims said they felt “let down” and “foolish” that they had been taken in.
The court heard Hayes always left his correct phone number with his victims, together with a promise to pay the money back they had “loaned” him.
Prosecutor Bridie Smurthwaite told the court: “He was arrested and fully admitted the offences and said he had used various methods.
“The main one being his girlfriend was in Nottingham and he had to get to her.
“On each occasion he spent the money on alcohol and had no intention of ever repaying it.”
Hayes, of Ilchester Street, Seaham, who has previous convictions for similar offending dating back to 2007, admitted charges of fraud by false representation.
Mr Recorder Hedworth QC said Hayes “richly deserves” to go to prison but that the public would be better protected if he was to overcome his alcohol problem.
Hayes was sentenced to 36 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, with alcohol treatment, 18 months supervision and 80 hours unpaid work.
The judge told him: “You have become a prolific and very unpleasant little conman.
“You prey upon ordinary people, knocking on their doors and conning them with sob stories.”
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