‘Mean spirited’ conman targeted the elderly

Court House-doorwayRepeat fraudster Stephen Gerard Mason cheated the elderly with frauds described by a judge as “despicable and mean-spirited”.

Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish ruled out home detention and sent 57-year-old Mason to jail for 16 months for frauds against 26 victims.

He targeted elderly residents of retirement homes, claiming to offer them technical help at the time of the change-over to digital television.

Mason would phone and then call to see people, sometimes using his own remote controller in his pocket to cause interference on their television, or telling them needed new parts, or a Freeview set-top box.

In one case he caused damage to the television to convince the owner it needed fixed, and the damage was so bad the set then needed to be replaced anyway.

He conned his victims out of $3363, which he cannot repay.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell said Mason had felt extremely guilty about what he had done and that had led to a delay in his guilty pleas. His pleas had “saved an awful lot of old people from having to give evidence at trial”.

The low-level fraud charges have a maximum sentence of three months imprisonment but the police asked the judge to consider adding them together – a total of 78 months.

Judge Farish said she was sceptical of Mason’s claim that he started out with a legitimate business. He had been ordered to do 100 hours of community work for the same offence in April, only a month before this offending started.

She said the offending was premeditated and had caused losses and harm to the elderly victims, who were left frightened, humiliated, and hyper-vigilant.

She told Mason his offending had been “despicable and mean spirited” and the community would not accept that home detention was an adequate penalty. A jail term would protect the community from his activities.

Mason was earlier convicted of conning an 83-year-old pensioner in 2000, and was ordered to do 60 hours of community work in 2010 for conning another elderly couple with appliance repairs totalling $800 in Christchurch.

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