M4 petrol can conman jailed
A PETROL can conman who targeted Good Samaritan motorists on the M4 has been jailed for two years.
Paul James had only just been released from prison for a similar scam when he retuned to cheating people out of their cash with his hard luck story.
But after hearing the 44-year-old had been operating the same confidence trick for almost a decade a judge imposed the lengthy jail term.
James plundered thousands when he preyed on people on the motorway between junction 15 at Swindon and junction 19 for Bristol.
The sophisticated fraud starts when the 'stranded motorist' is seen walking along a slip road carrying a petrol can.
When a driver stops to help, the conman targets them by spinning a sob story about running out of fuel and his credit card not working.
In most of the offences the court was told he got a lift to the Leigh Delamere services using the time to chat up the driver.
During the ride, he appears to take a call from the Highways Agency and tells the victim he is being charged £800 for the recovery of his vehicle.
James then 'borrows' some money towards the costs of getting his car released as well as petrol with the promise of paying it back, but the phone umber given is dead.
Pushpanjabi Gohil, prosecuting, said: "He is standing there with a petrol can and tells them he has run out of petrol, his credit card is not working, he is desperate.
"He then has some sophistication, he arranges for telephone calls to his phone. He provides his details, so say, to the victim of the fraud and produces credit card for ID."
Miss Gohil said he took a total of £2,355 from his 16 victims over a period of about a year.
James, of Taunton, Somerset, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud and asked for 13 more to be taken into consideration.
Miss Gohil said the three charges took place in January and February this year with the other matters stretching back as far as March last year.
She said that he was released from prison in December having been jailed by magistrates for the same type of offending.
In a lengthy list of previous convictions he had also been convicted for identical incidents in 2006, 2007, 2008 2010 and 2011 as well as the matter last year.
Jane Chamberlain, defending, said in the past her client had a drug problem but, though he had managed to rid himself of it in custody he had returned to the same offending.
Jailing him Judge Tim Mousley QC said: "You have been committing this sort of offence since 2006. It is a carefully worked out and honed way of operating.
"This offending involves a degree of sophistication on your part. During the period of this offending you had been in prison for the same thing.
"You have made a way of life out of this type of offending and at the age of 44 as far as I can see you are showing no sign of stopping.
"These are manipulative and mean offences and though the sums are not great anyone who falls victim to this would feel you have taken advantage of them: grossly taken advantage of."