Former Devon and Cornwall police officer jailed for stealing £18k from elderly widow

Smith first met the 81-year-old woman while on duty when he was called to her home to check on her welfare. Credit: PA

A former Devon and Cornwall police officer who stole more than £18,000 from an elderly widow has been jailed for 20 months.

Sam Smith, 31, now of Long Lane in London, first met the 81-year-old woman while on duty when he was called to her home in Dartmouth, south Devon, to check on her welfare.

The court heard how he befriended her, before using her bank and credit cards to go on an online spending spree between March and August 2020.

The offences happened while Smith was off-duty and living in Kingsbridge.

During a hearing at Exeter Crown Court on Thursday 30 November, he admitted eight counts of fraud totalling £18,276.

He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Smith, a former police officer at Devon and Cornwall Police, was on an unpaid career break when the fraud was uncovered. Smith resigned from the force in July 2023.

The court heard his offences came to light when a solicitor appointed to review the victim's financial affairs spotted online expenditure on her bank statements.

The online transactions raised concerns as the victim never used the internet.

Smith first met the victim in November 2019 when he attended her home to check on her welfare, the court was told.

The victim lived alone and was struggling to cope with her cancer and alcohol-related dementia when Smith befriended her.

He subsequently visited the address numerous times while on- and off-duty.

Smith went on to spend thousands of pounds online on numerous items including a 65-inch television and gaming and computer kit.

Each time he bought something, he recorded the victim as the customer and used her contact details and address.

On one occasion, Smith signed for a computer and gaming chair using the name of the victim's late husband.

The victim was later hospitalised and died in November 2020.

The solicitor's concerns were originally reported to the police in September 2020, but an initial investigation did not identify Smith's involvement.

It was only when the case was reviewed and reopened in May 2022 that a link was made between the online purchases and Smith.

Superintendent Jo Arundale, head of Devon and Cornwall Police's Professional Standards Department, said the force "takes any reports of illegal or inappropriate conduct extremely seriously."

She added: "We will always take the appropriate action when standards fall below those expected and continue to learn from any instances where they do.

"Smith's actions were wrong, illegal and he now faces the consequences of that," she said.

In a statement, the force said that Smith had been charged by postal requisition.

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