A 38-year-old man has been jailed after admitting stealing more than £1,000 from a vulnerable woman with learning difficulties.
Brian Smith, of Pollitt Crescent, St Helens, was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court, for a total of 19 months after admitting theft.
His victim, a woman in her 20s who has severe learning difficulties, was targeted via social media by Smith who befriended her and arranged several meetings in St Helens town centre.
Smith on each occasion asked to borrow money from the victim, asking her to bring her bank card with her.
He made up excuses as to why he needed money, on one occasion he said he received an on the spot fine for littering which was untrue.
Smith also told the victim to travel alone to St Helens town centre, met her, took her money and then made up a reason to leave.
In total Smith stole £1,000 from the victim.
Detective Inspector Louise Birchall said: “The victim believed this person was her friend. It was only when her mother and grandmother checked her bank account that they realised what was happening.
“The victim’s mother contacted Smith who refused to speak with her. Smith then sent a series of text messages telling the victim that her family had contacted the police about him. He was lying, as the police had not yet been contacted. The family were unsure whether they should the report the matter, luckily they did.
“I hope that today’s sentencing sends out a message that these types of crimes are taken exceptionally seriously.
“This woman was very vulnerable and Smith took advantage of that vulnerability to steal money from her in a despicable crime.
“I would urge people to look after their vulnerable neighbours, friends and family members.
“If you are suspicious of someone’s behaviour or have concerns that a friend may be at risk of being exploited in such a manner contact the police.”
“I would also urge people to go to the website www.getsafeonline.org for assistance in staying safe online or go to https://www.merseyside.police.uk/advice-and-protection/safety-online/ for advice.”