Vincent Morgan, 45, from Malton, went to his neighbour Raymond Whitwell’s home offering to carry out gardening work but had a very different enterprise in mind, York Crown Court heard.
Mr Whitwell agreed to pay Morgan £10 an hour and after two hours’ work paid him £20, said prosecutor Marte Alnaes.
The following day, Morgan returned and asked the centenarian if he would lend him £30 as he was “waiting for a cheque”.
“He promised to pay him the money straight back, saying he was honest and straightforward,” added Ms Alnaes.
The trusting war hero handed Morgan his bank card to withdraw the cash, believing his neighbour was a “trustworthy man”.
“(Morgan) returned shortly afterwards showing him the £30 and said this was all he had taken, and left,” said Ms Alnaes.
Between August and October 2020, Morgan visited Mr Whitwell on several occasions asking to borrow money. Again, Mr Whitwell handed over his bank card so Morgan could withdraw more cash, completely unaware that his neighbour was taking out hundreds of pounds at a time.
Over a period of several weeks, Morgan stole £4,240 from the pensioner and squandered it on booze and gambling.
It was only when Mr Whitwell got his bank statement that he realised Morgan had been systematically taking from his account.
Mr Whitwell, with the help of neighbours, called police and Morgan was arrested. His home was searched where police found a brown envelope addressed to Mr Whitwell, inside which was a medal commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Ms Alnaes said Mr Whitwell never gave Morgan permission to take the medal and it had clearly been taken from the veteran’s home.
She said Morgan had emptied Mr Whitwell’s bank account which contained his life savings.
One of Mr Whitwell’s neighbours said the war veteran had “little family to visit him and enjoyed the company of others and somebody to talk to”.
She said she was worried all along that Morgan would take advantage of him.
Morgan was charged with fraud, theft and handling stolen goods but initially denied the offences, claiming Mr Whitwell given him permission to take his money and had entrusted him with the war medal.
However, he finally admitted all three matters shortly before a trial was due to be held and conceded that his initial claims were “wholly bogus”.
Morgan appeared for sentence on Tuesday June 7, knowing that with his record jail was all but certain.
The court heard that since Morgan’s callous fraud, Mr Whitwell’s bank had agreed to reimburse the pensioner for his losses.
Morgan had 42 previous convictions for over 80 offences, many for theft and drink-related matters dating back to the mid-1990s.
Robert Mochrie, mitigating, invoked Winston Churchill’s famous ‘Never before…was so much owed by so many to se few’ speech, about the crucial air battle between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe over the skies of England, to convey the sense of shame felt by Morgan at the theft of the precious war medal commemorating the historic event in the early 1940s.
He said Morgan was now “absolutely appalled and ashamed at taking advantage of an elderly war veteran”.
Mr Mochrie said Morgan had a lifelong drink problem and at the time of the offences was drinking two bottles of vodka a day.
Judge Stephen Ashurst said it was “not only rare, but very distressing indeed, for a 102-year-old war veteran to be the victim of criminal offending”.
He told Morgan he had taken advantage of a vulnerable elderly man who was “well-respected in his community” and stolen from him not just thousands of pounds but an “item of sentimental value relating to his service record”.
“At the heart of your offending was a deception you played upon him that you would do gardening work,” added the judge.
“You were drinking heavily…and gambling and taking money out of his bank account, (sometimes) several hundred pounds at a time, and all that money was dissipated on alcohol and gambling.
“Mr Whitwell said how upsetting and distressing he found the whole event. He said he had never been a victim of crime before and hoped that in the years left to him, he never would be.
Jailing Morgan for 15 months, Mr Ashurst branded his crimes “disgraceful”.
Morgan will serve half of that sentence behind bars before being released on prison licence.