By Carl Jackson Tuesday 26 February 2013 Updated: 28/02 16:41
A FORMER Hanbury pub landlord has been jailed for conning an elderly couple out of more than a quarter of a million pounds and leaving them 'destitute'.
Darren Aston, 42, once licensee of the Vernon Arms, was sent down for five years at Birmingham Crown Court last Thursday (February 21) after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud, despite initially denying the charges.
He had been granted Power of Attorney over his victims, a 92-year-old woman and her friend, an 82-year-old man, but was found to abuse his responsibility by ferrying thousands of pounds of the couple's money to fund his ailing business.
Aston, from Shirley, eventually fleeced the pair to the tune of £260,000.
He first befriended the couple in 2006 when they came into his Key Moves estate agency in Yardley to pick up free newspapers.
They started coming in on a weekly basis and Aston began running errands, attending hospital visits with them and even cooking them Sunday lunch.
By 2008 he had wormed his way in to their wills, where he stood to pocket much of the pair's estate.
He was granted sole Power of Attorney after the couple's health deteriorated.
Money started exchanging hands when his victims' willingly handed over £6,000 after Aston had expressed concerns over his struggling business.
However, once he assumed control of their bank accounts, he did not hold back.
Investigators from West Midlands Police unearthed cheques and banker's drafts to Key Moves totalling £160,000.
Records also surfaced of large cash withdrawals, which Aston told the court was used for 'bits and bobs'.
In fact the money taken out amounted to a further £100,000.
He was only rumbled when the 92-year-old woman realised she was no longer receiving payments from a £30,000 premium bonds scheme and expressed fears to her social worker Aston had cashed it in.
On sentencing, Judge Melbourne Inman said his actions caused 'extreme harm' to his victims, leaving them 'financially destitute', confused and worried.
He added the woman could no longer afford the care to allow her to spend the rest of her life at home.
DC Vicky Henry, from West Midlands Police, said: "This is a strong sentence handed down to Aston and should act as a deterrent to anyone who feels preying on society’s most vulnerable is an easy, low-risk crime.
"He left his elderly victims financially barren with little or no balance left in their bank accounts.
"Aston slyly weaved his way into the couple’s confidence, he played the role of a helping hand there to offer support – but all along he was targeting their money to help dig himself out of a financial hole.
"Attorneys have certain duties, including not taking advantage of their position and to act in the best interest of the attorney ‘donor’ at all times – but Aston’s actions couldn’t have been more at odds with those promises."
DC Henry added police would try to recover as much of the money as possible under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
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