Eight people who targeted older men to fleece them of their money arrested in Preston

Over 45 victims have been identified since the launch of Operation Wolf in Preston - an ongoing campaign targeting offenders who prey on vulnerable people.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:40 pm
Stacey Cummings preyed on a vulnerable man in his 90s. (Credit: Lancashire Police)

Operation Wolf was launched nearly 12 months ago after it was reported a group of women in Preston were sweet-talking lonely old men into handing over their cash.

One such case is of Stacey Cummings who received a two-year civil injunction until August 17, 2022, banning her from entering the area around Molyneux Court and St Paul’s Court.

The 36-year-old, of Elizabeth Street, was also found guilty of fraud by false representation in December 2020 after she tricked an 98-year-old man from Penwortham into handing over £1,500.

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She consequently received a custodial sentence of two years and nine months.

"Offenders ingratiate themselves into an individual’s life convincing them they are their friends and only helping them while all along benefiting from the relationship," PC Karen Graham said.

"As the victims do not see the offenders for what they are, this can also prove difficult for investigating officers and can take months of support for the victim to gain their trust and cooperation.

“This is something we take extremely seriously and we will continue to pursue existing and new offenders. It is an area which is massively under reported, however the operation has raised awareness and enabled more people to feel confident in coming forward and we would encourage people to continue to come forward regardless of how small it might seem."

Police said the victims are usually isolated and often have "learning difficulties or dementia", making them more vulnerable and susceptible to being groomed.

The Preston Neighbourhood Team works closely with partners such as Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council Adult Safeguarding teams and local housing associations to help potential victims understand what to look for in order to avoid becoming a target.

Since Operation Wolf started there have been:

16 x arrests

17 x convictions for theft, fraud, burglary, harassment and assault

1 x 3 year Criminal Behaviour Order

5 x Civil injunctions issued in conjunction with housing association partners

1 x Anti-social behaviour injunction (ASBI) taken out by Lancashire Constabulary

8 x Prison sentences

2 x Community Protection Warnings

1 x Community Protection Notice

Lancashire Police said they are committed to helping the most vulnerable members of our community and ask anyone with any concerns to report via [email protected], via the website on lancashire.police.uk/reportonline or call 101 with any information.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCT

1. If something feels off, report it.

2. The typical offender is an addict with either a drugs or drink problem and may look disheveled

3. Be wary of strangers offering to become someone's informal carer

4. Keep an eye out for vulnerable or elderly neighbours receiving unusual visitors who look out of place - they may be a lot younger and calling in the early hours of the morning.

5. Try and watch out for a change in your neighbour's behaviour. For instance, they may become quieter, subdued, or withdrawn

6. And watch for new cash problems, such as people suddenly falling behind with their bills

7. Losing weight could also indicate somebody no longer has money for food and other basics such as gas and electricity

You can read more about Operation Wolf by clicking HERE.

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