'Gold-digger' jailed over OAP con

A serial conwoman was back behind bars tonight after getting up to her "old tricks" of befriending elderly men through lonely hearts columns before fleecing them of their savings.

Sentencing Loraine Upritchard, 53, to three years in prison, Judge Richard Brown told her: "In my view you are a wicked and despicable gold-digging con artist.

"Your aim is to fleece as much money as you can from lonely old men and hope they'll be too embarrassed to report the matter."

Lewes Crown Court heard Upritchard used her familiar method to draw in 81-year-old widower James Saunders before defrauding him of £11,000.

He had placed an advert in the Friday Ads that he was looking for a female companion in 2007.

Upritchard, who told him her name was Danielle Ryan, later moved in to his flat in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, and borrowed £1,000 in February 2008, followed by a further £10,000 soon afterwards.

Upritchard gave him various reasons for needing the money, including that it was for medical treatment, promising him that she would pay him back once she had received some money in her aunt's will.

Prosecutor Beverley Cherrill said Upritchard was still under the terms of a community order for duping another widower when the latest offence was carried out.

"Your honour may be forgiven for thinking history is repeating itself," she said.

The court heard Upritchard also stole and wrote out a number of cheques from the middle pages of Mr Saunders' cheque book, although these were not honoured by his bank so he did not lose any money.

But by October 2009 he had grown suspicious and called police, who traced Upritchard to a B&B in Haywards Heath to whose owner, Barbara Pettitt, she had written some of the cheques out to and who knew her through the different alias of Louise Ryan.

In transpired that Upritchard's lover, Norman Boxall, had been staying at the B&B and had gone into arrears with his rent and racked up significant debts, which Upritchard was attempting to pay off using Mr Saunders' cheque book.

Upritchard answered "no comment" when arrested and questioned by police.

In May she pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and four counts of stealing cheques from Mr Saunders between February 2008 and October 2009.

Her guilty pleas came four years after she avoided jail at the same court for duping Leonard Hesling out of £2,200.

Upritchard lured him in after placing an ad reading: "Lovely, bubbly, attractive blonde widow, 50, seeking mature gents aged 60-70 for caring friendships, relationships and maybe more."

She kept a list of potential victims but some men were too embarrassed to report her, according to police who believed she had pocketed up to £100,000.

Ms Cherrill said she had then told officers that she did it because she "hated men".

In 2007 she was sentenced to a community order and told to pay Mr Hesling £2,200 compensation after admitting one count of obtaining property by deception and of failing to surrender to court.

But she was jailed for 12 months in 2009 after breaching the terms of the community order.

Upritchard was due to be sentenced for her latest offence yesterday but did not come to court, claiming she was in hospital with chest pains.

Judge Brown issued a bench warrant for her arrest, ordering that she attend court today at 2pm, and sent police to collect her from her home in Brighton Road, Horley, Surrey, when she failed to show up yet again.

Accompanied by two police officers, she finally arrived to be sentenced just after 4pm.

Wearing a scarlet-colour coat and with her blonde hair tied back, she did not show any emotion as she was sentenced to three years for each offence, to run concurrently.

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