BLACKBURN: Syed Bukhari, 38, formerly of Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, was sentencedtosevenyears and11months atPrestonCrownCourt after pleading guilty to fraud offences. During trips to Dubai and Pakistan,Bukhari, who haslinksto Blackburn,spent tens ofthousands of pounds on Rolex watches, jewellery, designer clothes, bags, phones and a cosmetic procedure to have a wig fitted. Det SgtJanette Bashallsaid: “Bukhari is a callous, deeply manipulative and heartless liar who saw fit to take over the lives of an innocent, vulnerable elderly couple. They had worked hard all their lives to be able to retire in some comfort yet he saw to destroy this by taking their home and hard earned savings, defrauding them of in excess of £350,000, most of which has been spent and not recovered.” An investigation was launched in January after it was discovered a house belonging to the married elderly couple in Preston had been sold without their knowledge. Enquiries also revealed that numerous bank accounts and credit cards had been taken out in their name. Bukhari had withdrawn fromtheir accounts and stole in excess of £150,000 of theirlife savings whilst purporting to be theirson or a bank employee helping the pair. His activities began around November 2017 when the couple, the wife, 81, and the husband aged 80, were contacted by a man under the guise of ‘Gerry Patel’ from their bank. He told them that he had resolved fraudulent transactions on their accounts and their house was at risk of repossession but he would help them. He used thisto befriend them and gain their trust. He later went as far as befriending theirson overthe phone, convincing him he was acting on behalf of the bank. On November 16, the couple’s bank manager made contact with them, suspicious that a £40,000 online loan application had been made in the husband’s name. Neither of the pair could provide an explanation asthey had not made the application. Fortunately it was cancelled. Over the next few weeks, 10 different bank accounts and credit cards in the victims’ names had been opened fraudulently via online applications. One of the accounts had almost £100,000 deposited into it, which was later found to be from savings and investments belonging to the couple. The bank froze the account after becoming suspicious and so Bukhari was unable to access the money.