A conman who posed as an NHS employee to trick a 92-year-old woman into paying for a fake Covid-19 vaccine has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Kathleen Martin, now 93, allowed David Chambers, 33, into her home in Surbiton, south-west London, on the afternoon of December 30 last year as the jab was first being rolled out to vulnerable people.
She had recently been contacted by her GP surgery and believed Chambers, who was wearing a fake lanyard, had been sent to administer the vaccine.
He asked her to roll up her sleeve and pretended to give her the jab, pressing something she described as “dart-like implement” against the back of her wrist.
Chambers, who did not inject anything or break his victim’s skin, charged her £140, then returned days later on January 4 to demand another £100, which she refused to pay.
In a statement, Ms Martin described the scam as “harrowing” but said she hopes it “doesn’t deter people from getting vaccinated”.
Chambers was jailed at Kingston Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and battery at a previous hearing.
Judge Hannah Kinch branded his actions “despicable” and said: “I have no doubt your actions caused significant anxiety and distress to other elderly people at that time, worried they might too fall victim to that scam.
“Your actions were cruelly calculated to trick the victim into thinking she had been properly vaccinated so as to be able to obtain payment from her.”
Chambers was also given a seven-year criminal behaviour order to stop him targeting elderly victims in their homes.
The court heard he was previously jailed for 18 months for burgling an elderly woman after telling her he needed to check her boiler and radiators.
He was also handed a suspended sentence, which was later activated, for defrauding two elderly victims by claiming he needed to borrow money for a locksmith after getting locked out of his home.
The judge said: “Your previous convictions show a propensity to deliberately target vulnerable elderly victims in their own homes, a place where they should feel safe and secure.
“You took full advantage of the vaccination rollout to prey on another vulnerable victim in her own home.”
Father-of-three Chambers, from Surbiton, appeared in the dock with his hair swept back into a manbun – the same distinctive hair style seen on CCTV images released in the police appeal that led to his arrest.
Prosecutor William Davis said he had carried out the scam amid rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates in the UK.
“We say this offending risked undermining confidence in the vaccine rollout, which was in its early stages at the time,” he said.
“Elderly people hearing about these offences may have been concerned they would be victims of a fraud in this way.”
In a statement, Ms Martin said she has lived in Surbiton her whole life and had “never been subject to such a deceitful and horrific crime”.
She added: “It has been a difficult few months coming to terms with the reality that someone could go to such lengths to defraud a person.
“Knowing first hand someone would use the Covid-19 vaccination process to scam money from the elderly is harrowing.
“It is important people are aware of these scams and always check the validity of what people say when they contact you by phone or knock on your door.
“These scams are on the rise and they specifically target the elderly. This person posed as an NHS employee with a fake lanyard and gained access to my home.”
Edward Butler, defending, said Chambers felt “shame and disgust at his behaviour” towards Ms Martin and has “recognition and remorse for the pain he has caused”.
He added: “These are deeply unpleasant and shameful offences. They are the product of a life hitherto wasted in the form of addiction to illegal drugs.”