A GAMBLER from Leigh has been jailed after he defrauded vulnerable people out of more than £150,000 over a 12-year period to feed his addiction.

Simon Hayes, aged 48, of Henrietta Street, was sentenced to three years and four months behind bars at Liverpool Crown Court today, Thursday.

Judge Thomas Teague, QC, said when jailing Hayes: “You obtained money by dishonest means from many elderly and vulnerable victims in a way that was cruel and heartless.

“Your crimes have had a lasting effect on your victims. Even when relatively small sums were involved, those losses were still serious from your victims’ point of view."

He approached his victims at their homes or in car parks of retail stores between January 2001 and June 2013, claiming he would be able to get them white or electrical goods.

Money was exchanged but the items never arrived.

He also asked some of the victims - who he knew - for money to start a business or buy land, however he never paid back the cash.

In total, Hayes conned £150,050 out of his victims, including £70,000 from a 67-year-old woman who was the sole carer for her son and in control of a large compensation payment she received for negligence in her son's care.

PC Paul Taylor, from the Volume Fraud Team, said: "In a number of cases, Hayes had previously known his victims and used this to manipulate them.

“He often pretended he was going to go into business or buying land and needed a substantial amount of money before he could do this. He claimed once things were up and running, he would pay them back but never did.

"However, he was determined to get even more cash and had the audacity to approach people in the street, some elderly, claiming he would be able to get them washing machines, fridge freezers, laptops or TVs because he worked for a retail outlet. He then arranged to go around to their houses and collect the money but did not give them anything in return.

"The range of offences show how Hayes would do absolutely anything to get money and how trusting he came across to the people he stole from.

“From our investigations, it seemed that Hayes spent most of his money on gambling and has been barred from several bookmakers across the Wigan and Leigh area."

Hayes had pleaded guilty to two counts of acquiring property by deception, four counts of theft and 19 counts of fraud on February 13. A further seven counts were ordered to lie on file.

Geoff Whelan, defending, said: “The defendant has been gambling for between 25 and 30 years, an addiction which has lost him everything. It has cost him his marriage and his relationship with his two children and two grandchildren.

“He has tried to follow advice given to him such as not carrying cash or go near to bookmakers but this is increasingly difficult when they are on every street.”

A Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing will take place on June 6.