Thomas Hannifin, 24, of no fixed address, was sentenced to a total of 15 years and two months for conspiracy to burgle and a robbery at St Albans Crown Court on Thursday (February 11).
The complex investigation was led by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s specialist team Operation Manhunt, which investigates distraction burglary, frauds and other crimes against the elderly.
Hannifin was jailed in connection with a series of distraction burglaries across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Essex, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey and London. The majority of victims were aged in their 80s and 90s, with one victim aged 94.
In most cases, up to three offenders created a false reason to gain entry to the property to steal, such as investigating a burst pipe, or repairing a water leak. Jewellery and cash were taken.
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Officers from Operation Manhunt appeared on Crimewatch in March 2015 to appeal for information about the burglaries, which occurred between August and October 2014.
Police received an overwhelming response and Hannifin was arrested a week later.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and robbery at an earlier hearing on, January 4, 2016.
He was sentenced to 12 years for 20 distraction burglaries and three years and two months for robbery, to run consecutively.
Detective Inspector Luke Whinnett from Operation Manhunt said: “Hannifin deliberately and callously targeted some of the most vulnerable members of society for his own selfish gain.
“Thanks to the determination of the Operation Manhunt team and information from members of the public Hannifin is now behind bars, which I hope brings some comfort to his victims and their families. I am pleased that he has been handed a substantial sentence for his despicable behaviour.
“It is a sad fact that criminals like these will be operating across the country day to day and I would like to take this opportunity to advise people to be vigilant if an unexpected caller arrives at your home. Our advice is simple, if you aren’t sure, don’t open the door.”
People are urged to take note of the following advice to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of distraction burglary and doorstep crime:
Not sure? Don’t open the door! ‐ If you are not expecting anyone and you don’t recognise them, don’t let them into your home. Try to communicate with the caller without opening the door and ask them to return at a time when you have someone you trust with you.;
If you are expecting a caller ‐ If a person you are expecting comes at the time you have arranged, ask to see their identification before you let them in;
Never keep large amounts of cash at home. Put your money in an account where it is safe;
Never consider having work done on your house or garden by anyone who knocks on your door. You can find a reputable trader through Trustmark 01344 630 804 or visit www.trustmark.org.uk;
Call 999 if you suspect a crime is in progress or you believe someone is acting suspiciously around your neighbour’s property.