A PENNILESS gambling addict who used a dating website to fleece an older man out of nearly £30,000 will have to pay a nominal fee of just £1 unless he later comes into money.

Benjamin Lewis appeared at Worcester Crown Court yesterday for a proceeds of crime application as efforts were made to claw back some of the cash he stole from a 'sympathetic' older man.

We reported last November how Lewis of Evesham was spared jail after conning the man, aged in his late 60s, out of £29,908, telling him he had lost his job, his mother had died and his dad had suffered a heart attack. We reported at that hearing how how had yet to pay back a penny to his victim and it was revealed yesterday that he had no money or assets from which any compensation could be recovered.

Siobhan Collins, prosecuting, said the overall benefit figure to Lewis was £30,335 but that he had only had an available amount to pay of £1. The barrister asked for the judge to consider a six month jail term for Lewis as a default if he failed to pay.

She asked that compensation for the victim be retrieved from any future sums of money the defendant may come into.

Judge Nicholas Cole made the nominal order in the sum of £1 which Lewis must pay within 28 days.

The default jail term for non-payment was set at 28 days after the judge ruled that the six month prison term requested by the prosecution was too high.

The Crown Prosecution Service will have to apply to vary the order in the event of Lewis coming into any assets in future so the compensation can be paid.

We reported last year how the 24-year-old claimed he needed the money for petrol so he could get to a job interview, for car repairs and to go and see his father in hospital in North Wales.

Lewis of Oak Tree Close, Evesham, admitted fraud by false representation and was handed a suspended sentence last November.

The defendant even claimed he had been stabbed while he was at the cashpoint withdrawing money to reimburse his victim, Robert Shepherd.

The cash was paid into Lewis's account via bank transfer in 246 transactions between May 31, 2015 and October 16, 2016. By far the victim's biggest expense were the payments to Lewis, the court heard.

It was taken as an aggravating feature that the victim was not a man of substantial means.

Chloe Ashley, prosecuting during the sentencing hearing, said Lewis and Mr Shepherd made contact on the online dating site before exchanging telephone numbers before contact continued through texts and phone calls.

Lewis told Mr Shepherd about the death of his mother, said he had lost his job but claimed he was eager to work. Miss Ashley said Lewis, who is heterosexual, was interviewed by police in August last year, telling them that his mother had died and 'at the time of this offence he had gone off the rails'.

Emily Heggadon, defending, said her client was 21 years old at the time and argued that 'it wasn't a particularly sophisticated or calculated fraud' and that he had 'a lot going on in his personal life'.

"He had just lost his mother. Unfortunately he's addicted to gambling" she said.

Recorder John Steel QC described the victim as ‘a highly sympathetic man’ and said that the money he had transferred to Lewis was by far the largest expenditure in his bank account.

Lewis continued asking for money on a regular basis until Mr Shepherd became suspicious.

Recorder Steel said at the sentencing hearing: “There were many other incidents in which you requested funds which were clearly completely false and raised suspicion by the victim, including your gaining employment in Preston with a plant company which was in fact based in Melbourne, Australia.

“You also said you were intending to pay him back some £2,300. You did not do so and came up with a story you had been assaulted en route to the cashpoint and stabbed in the leg, requiring you to go to hospital.”

The judge sentenced him to 12 months in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered him to complete 200 hours of unpaid work at the hearing last November.