THE mother of a Royal Marine killed in Afghanistan who was conned by a fraudster has warned others not to get taken in by such “ghastly” crooks.

Yesterday, Gary Sheehy of Chetwynd Mead, Bampton, avoided jail and was ordered to carry out unpaid work after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud.

Patrick Moran, prosecuting, said the 50-year-old father-of-two had “abused the friendship and trust placed in him by someone who was clearly vulnerable”.

His victim Lee Mackie, 58, lost her 21-year-old son Jason, of 3rd Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, when his vehicle hit an explosive device in 2009.

She received a lump sum payment of £150,000 from his life insurance and was convinced by Sheehy’s lies to invest around £4,350 in a camping equipment business.

Mrs Mackie, from Bampton, said she hoped the case would encourage people to learn from her mistakes and be on the look-out for fraudsters.

She said: “I’m very happy with the sentence – now he’s got a criminal record, that is good enough for me.

“We’ve named and shamed him and hopefully raised awareness that people like him are out there.

“That is one of the main reasons I went to the police.

“These guys are so good at what they do. If I can just raise awareness about how conmen get you in their grip, I think that would be fantastic.

“They are ghastly these people, absolutely ghastly, and they prey on the vulnerable. People need to be on the look-out and not get taken in.”

Mr Moran told Judge Ian Pringle that Sheehy, who was the boyfriend of Mrs Mackie’s neighbour at the time, first convinced her to invest around £10,000 in a motor vehicles business.

The barrister said the fraudster then asked for further payments of £3,500 and £850, telling his victim he already had 140,000 orders for a piece of camping equipment he had invented.

Mr Moran said this wasn’t true and the defendant told Miss Mackie “half truths and downright lies about his business ventures, in behaviour that was clearly dishonest”.

She gradually grew suspicious when he did not pay her back after about 18 months and wouldn’t answer her calls. She eventually contacted the police.

But Peter De Feu, defending, said Sheehy had always intended to pay the money back, but had ended up digging himself “deeper and deeper” into financial trouble.

He said: “He asked her to invest in a business that was initially genuine. This was not an invented business for the purposes of relieving her of her money.”

Judge Ian Pringle gave Sheehy a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, with 120 hours of unpaid work and told him to pay £2,000 compensation.