Steven Milner deliberately targeted the 70-year-old man in broad daylight in Westwood, Scarborough, last month.
After assaulting the man, Milner, of Eastfield, Scarborough, ripped the wallet from his jacket, using so much force that he walked off with the wallet and torn jacket in his hand.
The man was left very shaken as Milner fled and then used his bank card to buy alcohol.
Police arrested Milner within 40 minutes of the attack after they recognised him from a description given.
Officers also gathered damning CCTV evidence that linked Milner to the offence.
Milner, 51, pleaded guilty to robbery and fraud when he appeared at York Crown Court last week.
He was jailed for four years and nine months.
Detective Constable Nick Burton of Scarborough CID said: “This was a vicious but cowardly robbery which would have been extremely distressing for the victim.
“But swift police work and a detailed investigation that linked Milner to the crime helped take another robber off our streets. Our communities are safer as a result.”