A SCAM artist who targeted five elderly and vulnerable people at the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been jailed for 10 years.

Michael Alcorn conned his way into his victim’s homes, all of whom were aged between 77 and 86, over the course of two days in April.

On three of those occasions, while inside the homes which were all in Rossendale, Accrington man Alcorn made away with small sums of cash.

However on the remaining two occasions his attempts were cut short, either by someone else turning up at the house or by the householder becoming wary of his actions.

Preston Crown Court heard that he has a ‘distinctive modus operandi’ when it came to choosing his victims - all of whom, it was heard, were even more vulnerable given the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecuting, David Clarke said: “All of these offences involved greater harm, there was high culpability and there appears to have been a deliberate targeting of elderly individuals.

“In addition to that given the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the vulnerability of these victims was even greater than usual as his presence added further risks to their health.”

Defending, Andrea Locke said Alcorn had been arrested in September 2019 on suspicion of a separate offence and as was taken straight into custody as per the conditions of him being on licence for a sentenced passed down in 2014.

He was kept in prison for six months before being released in March of this year when no evidence was offered by the CPS to pursue to charge.

Ms Locke said: “When he was released in March his belongings had been cleared from his flat, including his ID.

“Because of the crisis he found himself in a position with no assistance and nobody wanting to engage with him. The consequence of that is he turned to offending over a two-day period – it is not an excuse. This was an unusual combination of circumstances.”

Sentencing Alcorn to 10 years in custody, the Honorary Recorder of Preston Judge Mark Brown said: “You have pleaded guilty to five offences of domestic burglary and you have also admitted the breach of an anti-social behaviour order.

“That order was imposed in 2012 in respect of fraud offences. It is my understanding those offences involved you offering fraudulent services at people’s homes, hence the prohibition against doing it.

“Prior to 2012 you had other convictions for similar matters. You are 55-years-old and have 25 previous convictions for 52 offences.

“Thirteen of those previous convictions involve burglaries of people’s homes. In 2014 you committed a burglary at the home of an 81-year-old, very vulnerable person who had dementia. In respect of that offence alone you received a sentence of eight years imprisonment.

“You were also in breach of the ASBO and received a consecutive term of 12 months.”

Judge Brown continued: “You are clearly an individual who likes to target the elderly and vulnerable.

“A person who is prepared to prey on those least able to resist you.

“The present offences occurred over a period of two days in April at a time the Covid-19 crisis was close to its highest peak.

“In each of the cases they involve elderly and extremely vulnerable people. People who had no doubt been instructed by the government that they fell into the category of person who should be self-isolating for their own protection. I must have been obvious to you that they fell into the category.

“There are a number of aggravating features relevant - first they were committed when you were in breach of an ASBO.

“You were still on post-release licence and indeed since the offences have been recalled. I am informed you are unlikely to be released from the existing sentence until about March of 2023.

“It is matter of great regret to me that the sentence I pass today has to be served from today and the court has no power to direct that it should be served consecutively.

“The other aggravating factor about these offences – the pandemic. That fact you went into their homes means you placed them at much greater risk than they otherwise would have been.

“I am told that since you’ve been in custody you have suffered from the disease and therefore you will understand the profound implications this can have.

“There is no doubt that as a case of domestic burglary this is about as serious as it ever can get.

“There are sentencing guidelines but I am satisfied that this case falls way above that.

“I am satisfied there has to be an extra-lengthly term of imprisonment.”