A convicted fraudster who posed as a police officer in a bid to manipulate a vulnerable pensioner into handing over his life savings has been jailed after judges ruled his original sentence was “unduly lenient”.

Michael O’Neill, 28, is thought to have worked with a number of people to target the victim in an elaborate scam that saw the group pretending to be builders and demanding payment for vital works needed at the elderly man’s property.

Police said O’Neill later posed as an officer pretending to be investigating the builders and demanded the victim pay for court costs.

O’Neill, of Pilgrims Lane, North Stifford, Grays, Essex, initially avoided jail and was handed a suspended sentence of 21 months at Inner London Crown Court in July after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

But Court of Appeal judges sentenced him to an immediate jail term of three years and one month following a hearing on Friday.

City of London Police previously said the victim initially paid around £2,000 to the fake builders, but refused to pay more and raised concerns with a neighbour.

He was visited by genuine officers from the Metropolitan Police, but O’Neill later approached the pensioner requesting £15,000 for an alleged court case involving the fake builders and claimed the pensioner would be entitled to compensation.

The victim handed over a cheque for the sum, but was then also told he needed to pay £75,000 to the court via debit card, police said.

The victim arranged to meet O’Neill in the Hatton Garden area of London to complete the transaction.

The pensioner was directed to a watch shop to make the payment and was told to say he was buying two Rolex watches if questioned.

Card payments were declined and when the victim visited a NatWest bank branch instead, staff grew suspicious and contacted the police.

His case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Solicitor General Alex Chalk, where a panel of three judges found that O’Neill’s original sentence was “unduly lenient”.

Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Mr Justice Holgate and Mr Justice Knowles, increased the sentence to three years and one month imprisonment.

O’Neill was given until 4pm on Friday to surrender to police.

Mr Chalk said in a statement after the ruling: “This was a sustained and thoroughly dishonest scam designed to manipulate a particularly vulnerable victim.

“I welcome the Court of Appeal’s decision today to increase the sentence. Let it serve as a deterrent to others thinking of carrying out similarly cruel crimes.”