A CASHPOINT thief has been jailed after targeting elderly victims as they attempted to withdraw their hard-earned savings.

Asisa Kamali, 47, loitered in Sunderland city centre and befriended vulnerable pensioners on five separate occasions in January and February this year.

After attempting to earn their trust, Kamali walked the elderly victims to an ATM machine and distracted them as they inputted their pin number – before secretly stealing their bank card.

With her victims unaware, Kamali would then return to the cash machines and use the stolen cards to secretly withdraw their money.

But Kamali’s deceit was laid bare after police became aware of the spate of similar crimes and launched a city centre investigation.

Kamali, of Chester Terrace North, Sunderland, has now admitted five counts of theft, one of burglary and fraud. She was jailed for 15 months by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday.

PC Steve Stringer, the officer in charge of the case, said: “The brazen nature of Kamali’s criminality is absolutely deplorable – and I’m sure the public will share in our disgust that somebody would target the most vulnerable people in our society in this way.

“Her actions were cold and heartless, taking advantage of her victims’ friendliness in order to steal their hard-earned cash. I am pleased that the judge has recognised the severity of her actions and handed down a significant custodial sentence.

“Kamali’s conviction follows a significant policing operation which was deployed in Sunderland city centre in order to identify the person responsible.

“Our city centre neighbourhood team actively patrol the streets in order to look out for this type of criminality. What I would ask the public is to be vigilant that criminals such as Kamali often target elderly people, especially those who are alone, in order to secure a quick win.

“Please make sure you and any loved ones are wary if approached by strangers who are keen to accompany you to a cash point, and make sure your personal details are kept safe. If you see anybody acting suspiciously in the city centre, please contact us as soon as possible.”

On January 6 this year, Kamali targeted an 82-year-old man in Market Square and, after watching him input his pin number, she secretly stole his bank card and used it to withdraw £800 in four separate transactions.

The following week, she targeted another pensioner in the same location and distracted her victim as she input her pin number – leading the elderly woman to believe her card must have been swallowed by the machine.

But Kamali had stolen it, taking £300 before the victim was able to realise.

She carried out similar offences on three further occasions over the next month, all in the city centre, pocketing a total of £1,700.

Kamali also admitting burgling the Premier Inn on Hind Street after she entered a staff office and stole £100 from an employee through sleight of hand.

She pleaded guilty to the various offences when she appeared before magistrates in South Tyneside on May 11.

Yesterday, she was handed a custodial term and now begins a stretch behind bars.