A conman has been jailed for five years for pretending to be a police officer while using the name of a character from the Sherlock Holmes novels.
Thanet resident Aaron Cowan, 24, was arrested in April after his false name of Inspector Greg Lestrade raised the suspicions of one of his victims.
He was charged with several counts of fraud and impersonating a police office after he was found to have obtained cash and goods from a number of local businesses.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how Cowan, of Magdala Road, Broadstairs, first targeted a mobile telephone shop in Margate which he claimed had been sold a second-hand iPhone that had been stolen during a burglary.
On Tuesday 28 March he told staff he was seizing the phone, which he placed in an evidence bag while wearing a false police lanyard and identity badge. He then sold the device to another shop for £340.
The following day he visited a travel agency in Ramsgate and claimed to be investigating the supply of fake banknotes. After using a pipette to supposedly test the four notes that were given to him, he claimed they were indeed counterfeit but gave the cash back before leaving the store.
Later that day Cowan attempted the same scam at a betting shop in Margate, where he left with £4,840 worth of notes that he claimed to have been forged. He later returned to collect the hard drive from the shop’s CCTV system, which he said would assist in his investigation.
Cowan left empty-handed following a similar incident at an amusement arcade in Margate on Monday 3 April.
On Friday 7 April he attempted to scam a business in Canterbury out of another mobile phone but the manager of the store grew suspicious of his motives and of the Inspector Lestrade name, and reported Cowan to Kent Police.
A search warrant was executed at his home in Broadstairs, where officers seized £2,500 cash, an ID badge in the name of DI Greg Lestrade and a number of evidence bags among other items that linked him to the offences. He was arrested on Friday 28 April.
Cowan pleaded guilty to all the offences prior to his sentencing on Wednesday 18 October.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Gareth Foreman said: “We police with the public’s consent and value the trust they have in Kent Police staff and officers. Aaron Cowan took advantage of this trust and the helpful nature of the public to perpetrate his crimes.
“We are unsure why he chose such a distinctive name but it transpired to be his downfall. In the words of Sherlock Holmes himself – what one man can invent, another can discover.
“Be assured that police officers rarely visit people without first making an appointment, and that we will always be able to prove our identity by providing a warrant card, an identity card and a force number. Anyone who suspects that someone is pretending to be a police officer should report it by calling 101.”