Two men from Yorkshire who masterminded one of the country’s biggest ever organised cheque scams have been jailed.
Charles Nyongo, who lived in Leeds, and Onais Hove, from Barnsley, were the ringleaders of a “ruthlessly indiscriminate” criminal gang who stole and fraudulently manufactured millions of pounds worth of bank cheques.
They intercepted completed cheques in the post, which they then altered, or photographed blank ones using smartphones to capture legitimate details which they used to manufacture fake cheques.
The cheques would then be cashed through ‘mule’ bank accounts that were held by innocent members of the public including students and vulnerable people.
About £6.5million worth of stolen and fake cheques were seized in police raids following an investigation by the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).
The gang’s victims included hospices, schools, golf clubs and the elderly.
Nyongo, 43, of Gabriel Court, Hunslet, and Onais Hove, also 43, of Hallowdene in Barnsley, both received nine-year prison sentences at Bradford Crown Court.
Det Chief Insp Perry Stokes, head of the DCPCU, said: “We have dismantled a highly organised and professional fraud gang – one of the largest of its kind ever seen in the UK.
“As the ringleaders, Hove and Nyongo were ruthlessly indiscriminate in selecting their victims. Their knowledge of the bank cheque system was considerable, and our investigation revealed a series of fraud factories across the country.
“We are delighted to have brought these criminals to justice and to have removed the threat they posed to British banks and their customers.”
The DCPCU investigation began in April 2012 and included officers from eight police forces across the country.
The court heard investigators initially discovered evidence of the fraud when they found a number of chequebooks hidden inside a cooker hood during a search of Nyongo’s home in 2012.
Seven months later a house in Topaz Close, Huddersfield, which was linked to Hove, more cheques, printers and a computer containing cheque security details were seized.
At Hove’s property in Barnsley officers found cheques, inks, paper, printers and counterfeit driving licences.
In November 2012 Hove was arrested by officers who went to an address in Croydon and found him loading items into the boot of a car.
A text message on his mobile phone read: “They found the whole office, the one I do here. The chequebooks we steal, fake driving licences, everything. My fingerprints are there. They broke into the house when I was not in.”
In total officers seized almost 3000 stolen or fake cheques – the most ever recorded by the banking industry, along with the specialist ink and paper used in their manufacture.
Police also uncovered computers with cheque templates and ready-made identity kits for ‘mules’ to open false bank accounts.
Nyongo and Hove both denied conspiring to defraud UK banks and possessing articles for use in fraud. Hove also denied making such articles.
However, both men were convicted of all charges following a trial.
Hove was given an additional two years in prison for committing an offence after being given a previous suspended sentence.