A con artist who talked his way into the homes of several vulnerable people by telling them he needed to ring 999 for his pregnant wife has been jailed.
Lee Currie, 34, targeted the elderly and disabled at several addresses in Edinburgh between September 2011 and February 2012.
The city's sheriff court heard how Currie would knock on their door and tell them that his partner had gone into labour and that he needed to phone for an ambulance.
The half-witted criminal then made the mistake of really dialling the emergency services, who record all calls. On each occasion, emergency services sent an ambulance to the addresses that Currie rang from.
Currie, who has several previous convictions for dishonesty, would steal items that had been left around the homes once he gained entry. He snatched handbags, wallets and mobile phones during the thefts which were committed before he was arrested by police earlier this year.
On some occasions his victims became suspicious and Currie had to leave empty handed.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Kenneth Maciver told Currie that he had no other option but to send him to prison. Sheriff Maciver added: "You deliberately targeted the elderly and people who lived by themselves. You took advantage of the kindness that people show to strangers who are in need. Your crimes were pre-planned and you were manipulative. I can only deal with this by imposing a custodial sentence."
Currie, a prisoner of HMP Saughton, pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft and fraud between September 2011 and February 2012 at an earlier court hearing. He was jailed for a year and ten months.
The crack cocaine addict originally faced a total of 21 charges but the Crown agreed to drop 14 charges in return for Currie entering a guilty plea to seven.
Depute procurator fiscal Jane Hilditch told the court that Currie first targeted Joan Skinner, 64, on September 26, 2011 at her home in sheltered housing in Edinburgh's Gillespie Crescent.
Currie knocked on her door and told her that he needed to use her phone. While she made him a cup of tea he stole her handbag which contained a mobile phone, bank cards and £15.
Currie then struck another number of times throughout Edinburgh between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. The court heard on each occasion Currie would target people living in sheltered housing. He would tell his unsuspecting victims that he needed to ring an ambulance for his pregnant partner and then leave with their personal belongings.
On one occasion he stole a wallet containing £80 from a 73-year-old man.
Ms Hilditch said Currie was arrested in February 2012 and originally denied having anything to do with the frauds and the robberies. However, the majority of his victims were able to identify him as being the man who committed the crimes.
The court heard that Currie was homeless and had been of no fixed abode since splitting from his partner. He had spent the time before he was arrested living with various friends and family. The court also heard that he was a former mechanic who developed a crack cocaine problem.
On Tuesday, defence solicitor Stuart Carson told the court that his client stole to feed his drug problem.
Mr Carson urged Sheriff Maciver not to impose a prison sentence but to impose a drug treatment and testing order on Currie. But Sheriff Maciver said a custodial sentence was the only way to mark the seriousness of the offence.
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