A man who plundered more than £12,000 from the post office account of a vulnerable man with learning difficulties and stole money from a blind man in the street in Bedford has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Chaman Pal was told by Judge Rebecca Herbert today (Tuesday): “These offences are particularly despicable.”
She told him his offending had been “calculated and ongoing” and intended to exploit the “extreme vulnerability” of his victim.
The judge said: “You showed a callous disregard for his welfare and manipulated him into believing you were his friend.”
The result, she said, had been to completely drain the man’s post office account leaving just 68 pence in it.
Pal, 43, of Shakespeare Road in Bedford, was appearing for sentence at Luton crown court having been found guilty in March this year of one charge of blackmail, two charges of fraud involving the first victim and theft concerning the blind man who he’d targeted because of his white stick.
Pal also pleaded guilty to burgling a church in Bedford during which he took £400 in cash from an office and three further offences of theft from vulnerable people in the town.
At his trial in March, the jury was told the man who had money taken out of his post office account was a vulnerable person with learning difficulties and very “conservative” with his money.
He lived in Bedford and received regular visits from care workers who provided the support he needed.
The care workers would open the man’s mail for him and it was a statement that had been sent to him from the Post Office that started alarm bells ringing.
“It showed large quantities of cash being withdrawn from the man’s account on a daily basis.
“It appeared to be out of character because the man was known to be very conservative with his cash,” said Scott Brady who prosecuted Pal.
The jury heard that the post office the victim attended was in St John Street, Bedford, where it was known by the manager that he was vulnerable.
Jas Parmar, the manager of the Post Office, would often help the victim through the process of withdrawing money.
“I’d know the man and his family for 20 years,” said Jas, who is standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner election.
“Call it a hunch, but I’d suspected that the victim was being taken advantage of and flagged it up to the police and the Post Office.”
It was at this post office, the jury heard, that the defendant would also call at.
Mr Parmar knew him to be someone who came in to buy alcohol, but then noticed how in early 2018 he was withdrawing money from an account there.
“When I saw the victim outside Pal’s house, that’s when it clicked,” he said.
The jury was told the manager knew no new accounts had been opened at the branch and suspecting he might be using the account of a vulnerable person, reported the matter to the police.
Mr Brady said from the summer through to the autumn of 2017 the victim’s post office account showed a healthy balance with £12,767 in the account.
However, within a short period of time money started to be taken out of the account on a regular basis from branches in Bedford and using the victim’s bank card.
As a result, the account was suspended on 4 January 2018, but four days later it was reinstated.
That same day, said Mr Brady, £600 was taken out of the account followed by a “continuous draining of money out of the account.”
By 23 January there was just 68 pence in the account and Pal had taken in the region of £12,000 from it.
“The victim came into the Post Office to top up his electricity card and told me he had no money,” said Mr Parmar. “He said he did not have enough to buy food for his dog or himself and I gave him £20 from my own pocket.
“He’d been completely robbed of his life savings. This crime beggars belief.”
The jury was told that it was also discovered that during the same period, around £950 had been taken out of the victim’s Barclays Bank account.
Questioned by the police the victim told officers the defendant had followed him to the post office and got his PIN number off him.
He said Mr Pal also kept coming to his home asking for money and would get violent if he didn’t give him any.
Mr Pal was questioned by the police and claimed any money he had withdrawn from the accounts of the victim had been with his permission.
Mr Brady then said on 7 October 2018, Pal had taken £20 off a blind man and charity worker outside a food bank near the bus station in Bedford.
Today (Tuesday) when he came back to be sentenced, Judge Herbert was told how last September, Pal had targeted a man in a mobility scooter who was trying to withdraw money from a cash point machine in Bedford town centre.
Pretending to assist the man, Pal withdrew £100 from the man’s account handing him £40 and telling him “that’s all that’s come out.”
Three days later after stopping a man in a Bedford street to ask him if he could change a £20 note, Pal ended up stealing around £15 from him.
In October he carried out a burglary at the Bedford Pentecostal Church.
After going into an office at the building he stole £400 that was in an envelope and a bank card.
Finally, the court heard, on 1 November last year he had gone up to a woman in Ampthill Road in Bedford despite the fact he was already the subject of a criminal behaviour order not to contact her.
He asked her if she had any money before reaching into her bag, taking out a purse and taking from it £10.
Pal was arrested shortly afterwards and remanded in custody.
Passing sentence Judge Herbert told Pal he would have to serve half of the four-and-a-half years in custody before he can be released on licence back into the community.
Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Parmar said: “One of my top priorities is to support the victims of crime.
“The trauma and stress of any crime is immeasurable and can be long-lasting. It makes it even more difficult when the victim is vulnerable and cannot express their anxiety and distress.
“If elected, I will ensure that the victims at the centre of any policing plan.”