John O'Connor, a 33-year-old from Ealing in West London, has been found guilty of scamming bookies out of a total of £10,000. Over a period of 18 months in 2012 and 2013, he targeted branches of Ladbrokes around the country - ranging from Tower Hamlets in London to Chester, Nottingham and Weston-super-Mare. He developed a technique to ensure he couldn't lose.
The approach is actually a well-known scam - called slow count fraud. He would place a bet, and then distract the cashier. He would pepper them with questions, place a series of small and obscure bets at the same time, or create a disturbance. These were delaying tactics, so that the race he was betting on would be over before he had time to hand the cash over. The reason it's known as the 'slow count' is because traditionally the gambler would take forever counting his money out.
In Connor's case, if his bet won, he'd give his stake to the cashier and demand his winnings - or pretend he had already paid his stake and ask for his prize. If it lost, he would leave without ever paying the stake.
The Mirror said he was caught after carrying out the con on Oxford Street in London. The shop reported it to police, who circulated his image from CCTV to police around the country, and he was spotted in Hertfordshire in July last year.
What's surprising about this case isn't that a punter attempted the 'slow count' - which has been a betting shop staple for generations. The unusual thing is that it worked, because it's widely held that computerised, timed betting slips put an end to the practice.
The system simply does not allow betting shop staff to input a bet if the timed slip shows that the race has started, so in each case O'Connor not only carried out the con, he then sweet-talked the staff into breaking the rules in order to pay him his 'winnings'.
Given that bookies spend their days dealing with all sorts of people trying to persuade them to part with money, the fact that O'Connor was able to pull the wool over their eyes is particularly surprising.
It serves as a useful reminder to us all how dangerously believable these charismatic and persuasive con artists can be.
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