A heartbroken son has told how his dementia-stricken parent’s home was SOLD behind their back by a con artist who befriended them in an intricate fraud.
Serial fraudster Syed Arfat Bukhari, 37, was jailed for seven years and 11 months after admitting defrauding hundreds of thousands of pounds from an ex-Merchant Navy man and his wife of 40 years.
The Fulwood couple, who are in their 80s and have four children between them, had worked all their lives and saved to be comfortable in their retirement.
Police told how Bukhari, who funded business class trip to Dubai and Pakistan, as well as hair transplant operations, had “taken over” his victims lives.
He eventually fleeced them out of £350,000 during a prolonged fraud during which he cynically befriended the couple.
They are still living in the Preston property, though it is legally not theirs any more – and their family is battling to recoup their stolen savings.
Today their 55-year-old son said: “It’s been awful.
“Every time I’m sorting through my dad’s financial affairs he asks what I’m doing and I have to tell him he’s been conned – each time the shock and upset is exactly the same as the first time.
“His condition means he can have a full conversation with you, but as soon as you walk out of a room he doesn’t realise you were there because his short term memory capacity is affected.
“He is a very private, proud man and never shared his financial situation with anybody. My stepmum still believes to this day that Bukhari is a bank worker.”
Due to the progression of the couple’s illness, investigators still aren’t sure how Bukhari tricked his way into their lives.
It is believed he started doing ‘errands’ for the couple, but due to the man’s short-term memory being affected he could not remember Bukhari’s previous visits, while his confused wife was convinced by a story he was from the bank fraud department.
Unknown to their loved ones, Bukhari was gathering all the information he needed to steal their savings and sell their home - at £50,000 less than what it was worth.
Even when suspicions arose from other sources, Bukhari took on several different guises to continue duping the family and various agencies.
Over the course of several months, Bukhari emptied several of the couple’s accounts, made loan applications in their name and had mail and landline calls redirected.
Their bank received a call from someone claiming to be their son saying he had taken over their financial affairs, and police also received a call from someone claiming to be their son.
When Bukhari was caught with the couple at their home by a welfare worker he claimed he was their ‘adopted son’.
He then duped the couple’s actual son and his step-sister, who had at first believed genuine bank staff were trying to sort out what was described to them as a “financial mess” caused by the pensioner taking out loans and not repaying them.
The dad-of-one, from Fulwood, recalls: “He was very convincing at first and we thought maybe she had been confused about driving him around.
“He told us he was sorting it all out for them and that he had a “duty of care” to them. He said a loan had been taken out against their property.
But their son was increasingly suspicious and visited Lloyds Bank with his concerns – only to learn his dad had never taken out any loans.
The police were contacted, and a week later they broke the devastating news their home had been sold without their knowledge at Christmas by someone posing as their son.
The couple then had letters asking them to move out.
During the process, Bukhari had tricked the confused couple into signing a genuine document delivered by couriers.
He had also driven the elderly man to a bank in Blackpool and withdrawn cash from different shares and accounts.
As the search began for Bukhari he was described as having a receding hairline – but when arrested he had treated himself to hair implants.
He had spent £11,000 over Christmas at a hotel in Dubai and when he was arrested boarding a flight at Manchester Airport police found he had paid cash for a business class ticket to Dubai. He also had uncashed cheques belonging to the couple.
Their son adds: “I keep thinking its a bad dream and I’m going to wake up. I’m spending two to three hours every day chasing the various financial institutions to keep them updated an try and get my parents money back.
“I feel angry towards him, it’s been hard listening to him trying to minimise what he has done on court. To an extent dad’s condition has protected him because he doesn’t know what has happened, it’s me who has the sleepless nights.”