A con-artist who tried to swindle an elderly couple from Northampton out of £660,000 was caught after he left a crucial fingerprint in a bank branch.
Drug addict Anthony Thompson, 62, of, used fake IDs and forged signatures to try and switch the entire balance of a joint savings account held by the two pensioners into a fake account in the man's name.
But he hit a stumbling block when he went into the Nationwide Building Society branch in Wellingborough on February 28, 2014, to sign the paperwork posing as one of the account holders. As he could not provide the woman's signature he was told he would need to return later with the papers filled in.
But the unusual request to shift all £660,000 alerted Nationwide's security protocols and when he returned again on March 5, 2014, the branch called the police.
He fled before officers could arrive but a crucial fingerprint he left in the branch, coupled with CCTV evidence, was enough to lead fraud detectives to his address.
Thompson, of Ravenscourt Gardens, London, admitted the fraud under police interview, but it was accepted he was working for an organised gang, who had filled in the paperwork in for him.
At Northampton Crown Court yesterday, recorder Timothy Green sentenced Thompson to an 18-month suspended sentence and 100 hours of community service.
Though Thompson had been a serial offender with various fraud convictions, recent work to kick his drug habit with probation teams were a sign he was "belatedly" beginning to turn his life around, said recorder Green.
"You made false representations to Nationwide Building Society with intentions to gain access to the savings of (the elderly couple)," said the recorder.
"Money they had amassed through lawful activity, work that they had undertaken and money they had saved. You, by contrast, are a drug addict and you entered into a joint enterprise to steal those savings."
Thompson had attempted to get the couple's Northampton address changed to one in Collingtree, the court heard, before he was arrested.
Prosecuting Graham Huston described how the defendant was paid in cash and clothing by the gang. They would also give him a mobile phone to carry out the job.
In this particular case, because the fraud was unsuccessful, he had only been offered £50 and the ringleaders confiscated the phone.
Despite the fact recorder Green had described Thompson as an "experienced fraudster," Kate Yeomans, defending for him, said the 62-year-old had been trying hard to break his cycle of offending.
"He is entirely remorseful and is fully aware fo the impact this could have on his victims," she added.