A GANG of confidence tricksters were caught red handed when a quick thinking pensioner turned detective to help police track them down.

The three swindlers posed as a Natwest Bank security officer, a Scotland Yard detective and a courier driver in an elaborate ruse which succeeded in getting the 81-year-old retired civil servant to take out £8,000 from his bank.

He smelled a rat when they arranged to pick up the cash from his home in Sticklepath, near Okehampton, and took pictures of the so-called courier and his two accomplices who were in a car nearby.

The gang thought they had outwitted the pensioner by conning him into deleting the images by getting him to factory re-set his phone but he was a step ahead of them and had backed up the photos onto a cloud.

The pensioner called the police after the conmen rang back to try to extract another £3,000 and his information allowed officers to intercept the trio on the M6 as they headed North to their homes in Glasgow.

They stopped the car after a short chase and recovered all but £145 of the money, most of it in the same Farmer Luxton farm shop carrier bag which had been handed to the bogus courier.

Zain Ul Abedin, aged 22, and Wakas Khan, aged 29, both of Glasgow, denied conspiracy to defraud but were found guilty at a trial at Exeter Crown Court last December. Shiva Ram, aged 30, also of Glasgow, admitted the same offence.

Ul Abedin and Khan were both jailed for 18 months, suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work. Ram was jailed for 14 months, suspended for 18 months with 100 hours unpaid work by Judge Neil Davey, KC.

He ordered the cash recovered from the car and 1,000 Euros found in Khan’s pocket to be repaid to the victim and ordered each of the men to pay £200 further compensation to make up for the interest which the stolen money would have earned.

He told them: “This was a confident deception which ran over several days and demonstrated thorough and sophisticated planning.”

Mr Rowan Jenkins, prosecuting, said a pensioner living near Sticklepath was contacted in October 2020 by a man with a Scottish accent who claimed to be a specialist fraud investigator named David Anderson who was looking into thefts within the Natwest branch in Exeter.

The victim was persuaded to go to the Exeter branch and withdraw £8,000 cash and was told how to respond when challenged about why he needed the money, denying that he had been asked to do so by a third party.

The gang made him keep his phone on throughout his visit to the bank so they could monitor what he said and told him they would send a courier to pick up the cash from his home the next day.

He started to become suspicious but was then called by a different member of the gang posing as a Scotland Yard detective named Alex Robson who told him to address the envelope containing the cash to the Metropolitan Police.

The three men drove down from Scotland overnight and were caught on camera at a service station near Okehampton on their way to Sticklepath, where Ram put on a hi-vis jacket and posed as a courier sent to pick up the money.

The pensioner took photos of him and the car which survived the gang’s attempt to wipe them because he uploaded them to a cloud. He alerted the police when they called to tell him to transfer another £3,000.

His information led to the car being stopped on the M6 with Ul Abedin driving and the other two as passengers.

Ul Abedin and Khan both claimed they had no idea they were part of any conspiracy and had driven to Devon for a day out.

They said they had not heard any of the conversations with the pensioner which took place while they were in the car.

Mr Joss Ticehurst, for Ram, Mr Lewis Perry, for Khan and Miss Zoe Kuyken, for Ul Abedin, said they have never been involved in anything like this before or since and have all been assessed as good prospects for rehabilitation by probation.