A CON artist who duped victims into handing over cash by pretending her family members were seriously ill has been convicted of fraud.
Sherene Simmons, 32, of Dalmally Road, Croydon, turned up unexpectedly on victims' doorsteps, often in the early hours of the morning, pretending relatives were sick in hospital and pleading for help and money to visit them.
Targeting victims in Addiscombe, Ashburton, Shirley and Croham, Simmons claimed on one occasion that her mother had suffered a heart attack and she needed the money to get to hospital.
Her victims often doubted the story but nonetheless gave Simmons some money, typically between £40 to £60 cash, on the understanding she would pay them back – which Simmons never did.
In some cases, she shamelessly returned to the same victim to ask for more money and help, saying her mother had suffered further illness or even died.
She pleaded guilty last Thursday at Camberwell Magistrates' Court to 12 counts of fraud by false representation, having been arrested last Monday and charged the next day.
Simmons has been remanded in custody to appear at Croydon Crown Court for sentencing on a date to be confirmed.
Detective Constable Scott Barefoot, of Croydon CID, who investigated the case, said police used CCTV footage to identify the fraudster and force her to own up.
He said: "One of the very first victims to make an allegation had CCTV at her home, which showed a clear image of Simmons, so we knew from an early stage she was probably behind these scams.
"The difficulty in this case for us was locating and arresting Simmons, but we eventually caught up with her and due to the weight of evidence against her, she had little choice but to admit to the offences."
Police are investigating ten further allegations of fraud and are encouraging any more victims to come forward.
DC Barefoot said: "Victims in this sort of scam often feel embarrassed, having fallen foul of the con, so we think that there could be even more victims that haven't come forward. We would urge anyone who has been a victim of this kind of scam to contact police or Action Fraud with the details."
Two of Simmons' victims spoke to the Advertiser last May, before she had been identified.
Robin and Margaret Broadbent, of Highbarrow Road, Addiscombe, were fast asleep when the woman now known to be Simmons knocked on their door and said her son had been stabbed and she needed to get to King's College Hospital. They gave her £40.
Mr Broadbent, 74, said shortly after the incident on April 24: "It was a very shocking thing to have happened, and we were so sleepy and disorientated it was very easy for her to get money off us."
To contact police, call 101 or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.