A conman who was given cash and support by members of a Bury St Edmunds church after falsely claiming he had terminal cancer has been jailed.
Sean Malarkey, 44, duped a couple who tried to help him along with members of the Vineyard Church for two and a half years.
Malarkey, of St James Lane, Bury St Edmunds was finally caught out when, after saying he needed money to pay off a drug dealer, he claimed to have been kidnapped.
Ipswich Crown Court heard on Friday that CCTV images recovered by police showed him in a local betting shop at the time he alleged he had been snatched.
Malarkey, who pleaded guilty to an offence of fraud, was jailed for 29 months. He also admitted breaching a conditional discharge imposed by magistrates in February last year for theft.
Prosecutor Matthew Gowen said that in 2010 Malarkey had come to the attention of Richard Stephens and his wife through the Vineyard Church and the couple had tried to help him.
They had no reason to disbelieve what Malarkey told them about his background and that he had no money because he had paid for the funerals of several relatives but was awaiting an inheritance of more than £147,000 from his late father.
Mr Gowen said Malarkey told Mr and Mrs Stephens that he was suffering from terminal liver and lung cancer and was having chemotherapy.
Several thousand pounds were given to him by the couple and church members contributed towards a £500 funeral fund for him.
At the end of 2011 Malarkey told those helping him that the stress of money worries had made his cancer return, leading to a further £1,000 loan. Another £1,000 was handed over by Mr Stephens because Malarkey said he was under threat from a drug dealer.
But he was caught out when the couple went to the police after he claimed he had been kidnapped,
Examination of Malarkey’s medical records confirmed that he did not have cancer, the court was told.
After his arrest he sent the couple texts calling them Judases.
Richard Potts, representing Malarkey, said the defendent did have serious liver problems and by the
time he came to the attention of Mr and Mrs Stephens he had been ‘very much on his uppers.’
The court heard that Malarkey had a criminal record stretching back to the age of 12 and involving 28 court appearances for 45 offences.
Jailing him, Mr Recorder Karim Khalil told Malarkey his actions had been ‘quite appalling’, using lies to heighten sympathy towards him with the aim of getting money from Mr and Mrs Stephens and church members.
Mr Recorder Khalil said: “Most awful of all you told them that you had terminal cancer, something you knew would strike fear and sympathy in almost everyone who heard it.”
The people who had tried to help Malarkey had been regarded by him as ‘cash cows’, said Mr Recorder Khalil.