A "HEARTLESS fraudster", whose victims included an 81-year-old man, wept as he was jailed for two-and-a-half years today.

John Higginson tricked a car dealer, who had entrusted him to sell cars for him, out of four vehicles, stole a car from another man and tricked the pensioner out of his Ford C-Max, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Judge Robert Warnock told 54-year-old Higginson: "You are frankly a persistent and heartless fraudster.

"You are in denial as to your character, but I refer you back to your antecedents - 140 offences recorded against you, the preponderance involving the dishonest use of motor cars.

"You cannot be trusted as far as I am concerned to desist from this sort of behaviour without a custodial sentence and quite clearly it crosses the custodial threshold by some margin.

"You must understand that despite your selfish involvement in obtaining money dishonestly from others what it leaves behind is a trail of financial problems and upset and misery for others. Your criminal record is appalling."

He pointed out that Higginson had claimed in mitigation that he had not been given any chances in the past.

"That is abject and total nonsense and shows you remain more selfishly interested in yourself than the affect you had on your victims."

Higginson, of Hoylake Road, Moreton, had pleaded guilty to five offences of fraud and one theft involving cars worth a total of £15,000 between June and September last year.

Iain Criddle, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that car dealer William Mather entrusted Higginson to sell cars for him but on four occasions he told the purchasers they were his cars and kept the cash.

The fifth fraud offence involved him travelling to North Wales to meet an 81-year-old man to buy his Ford for just under £5,000.

They sat in a cafe waiting for the money to purportedly go into the man's account but Higginson left and drove off in the car and sold it to someone else.

Mr Criddle said that the theft on September 29 last year involved him meeting a man in a Southport car park and offered to buy his Ford Fiesta.

They set off to go to a nearby cafe to discuss the details but Higginson then snatched the keys and jumped into the car and drove off.

He sold it later the same day to someone else who bought it in good faith.

When he came to sell it on, he discovered that it was a stolen vehicle and police inquiries began.

John Ballam, defending, said Higginson had made full and frank admissions when questioned by police and has expressed remorse.

He had kept out of trouble for ten years until 2009 while in a stable relationship and believes that he has now reached a similar situation having met another partner.

Also he committed the last offence in September last year after which his mum "gave him a good telling off."

"His mum, aged 96, told him he had to leave within his means and could not carry on as he had and he made a promise to her."

She passed away earlier this month while he was in custody, having been arrested in October, and it has had a profound affect on him.

"Her funeral is next week and he is likely to miss it or attend in handcuffs," he said.