A CAR valeter who claimed he unknowingly allowed his bank account to be used in a sophisticated timeshare fraud against pensioners has appeared in court.

John Derrick Spoors, of The Crescent, Bridge Hill, Consett, said he was doing a favour a friend had asked of him when he allowed money to be filtered through his bank account.

But two pensioners - including one with failing sight - lost thousands of pounds in the scam, which asked them to transfer £1,800 across to enable them to receive a £16,000 windfall from previous timeshare investments, which never arrived.

Spoors, 32, admitted a charge of helping in the control or use of criminal property when he appeared before magistrates in Newton Aycliffe.

Paul Coney, prosecuting, said one 81-year-old victim had received a call from a woman who claimed to be working on behalf of the Spanish courts to award money to people who had had failed timeshare investment in a firm which had ceased trading after being investigated.

"She said they required a trustee bond of £1,800 so the money would be awarded the next day," he said.

"They made the arrangements to pay the account and the account holder was Mr John Spoors.

"The cheque was supposed to arrive the following day but it never did."

A 76-year-old victim, whose sight was failing, was scammed out of £6,000 in the scheme, with about £1,500 passing through Mr Spoors' account.

Jonathan Stirland, mitigating, said: "This was a cruel crime by those who perpetrated the fraud. It is not the position at all that this person had anything to do with those telephone calls or anything at all that persuaded these people to part with their money.

"His role was he allowed his bank account to be used to move the money through the system. He is a person at the very edge of the offending. There were much more sophisticated criminals than him. He had limited awareness of the extent of criminal activity."

The court heard Spoors was told he would be paid £100 for his help but that he was 'adamant' he didn't know what the fraud was. He was given 50 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £200 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.