A ‘callous and despicable’ fraudster has been jailed for swindling a friend out of his £23,000 life savings and blowing the money on cocaine and parties.

Samuel Almey preyed on the vulnerable victim after meeting him in a North Devon pub and bled him dry with a series of false stories.

He claimed he needed money to pay for his aunt’s funeral and then convinced the vulnerable young victim that he had committed a crime which he threatened to reveal.

The scam lasted five months with Almey demanding more and more money and only ended when the victim plucked up the courage to tell his parents, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Almey, aged 23, now of Goaman Road, Bideford, admitted fraud and was jailed for three years and five months by Judge Peter Johnson.

The victim had spent six years building up his savings in the hope of affording a deposit for a home.

He has been left penniless and so distrustful of other people that he now steers clear of anyone who is not in his family or a long-standing friend.

Almey was so greedy that he tried to bully the victim into taking out loans with online sharks so he could pay him more money.

He spent almost two years claiming that someone had hacked into his Facebook Messenger account and planted the evidence, but eventually had to admit what he had done.

Police were able to match the timing of the victim’s cash withdrawals with Almey’s demands for money. Other messages sent within minutes of them also proved he was the sender.

Passing sentence, Judge Johnson said: ”This was an absolutely despicable and callous manipulation of an extremely vulnerable young man.

“Through patience and a lot of hard work by him and his family he had been able to establish an independent form of life. He wanted to travel and have his own place.

“He was a hard worker who despite his difficulties had saved a little over £24,000, which represented his savings through hard graft over six years and an inheritance from his family.

“Those savings were then frittered away by your cynical and persistent actions in taking advantage. You unquestionably told lie after lie after lie to extract money by telling extremely outrageous and threatening stories.”

Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Almey met his victim in a pub and started extracting money in May 2018, carrying on over five months until the police were called in October.

He persuaded his victim that he had evidence which could get him in trouble with the police and used this to extract very large amounts of cash, most of which he spent on cocaine.

The full amount was calculated at between £23,000 and £24,000, based on the victim’s cashpoint withdrawals, all of which followed Facebook Messenger messages asking for money.

In an impact statement the victim said the fraud left him feeling distrustful and lacking in confidence. He said Almey had shown no remorse and made no effort to repay any of the cash.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Almey has no previous convictions and had previously worked in a care home before losing his job through poor timekeeping.

He started using cocaine as a mood enhancer but developed a habit which he hid from his family and has now managed to overcome.

He is truly remorseful and has settled down to a new life with a new partner.

The conviction follows a year-long police investigation.

Speaking after the verdict, Detective Constable Andrew Colley said: “The victim truly believed he was helping out a friend and Almey began to develop and expand the story with the intention of extracting more money and taking control of his life.

“Within the space of a few months, the victim had completely emptied his premium bonds and life-savings and had no more money to provide.

“Almey forced him into getting numerous advances on his wages, made him take out a bank loan, and instructed him to borrow money off his family - convincing him to tell detailed lies to his parents.

“It was only when, in desperation, the victim tried to borrow money off his next-door neighbours that his parents discovered the extent of Almey’s criminal activity.”

Messages recovered by police, from Samuel Almey to his victim, when he discovered his plan had been exposed [spelling and grammar as originally written]:

“Mate what have you said? I’m going to have to go to the court about this, you could get in trouble. If you want nothing to happen then of course delete the chat as doing a Facebook sweep.”

“I’m leaving now! Right my lawyer said to save your back you have to mention to you [sic] parents and change your story because if you’ve told them all about my business that a serious allegation and you’re not allowed to tell them about how much I owe!”

“End of the day it’s breaking the law because my business is private and confidential! He said delete our chats and make sure we message each other normally to avoid anything seaming suspicious!”