A ‘prolific’ gang of heartless fraudsters fleeced vulnerable elderly victims of over £200,000 in a scam by pretending to be police officers.
Six men were jailed for a total of 41 years after a court heard how they targeted at least 97 victims aged in their seventies, eighties and nineties.
Leeds Crown Court heard gang members would contact victims pretending to be investigating fraud.
They victims were told that their bank accounts were under threat and urged them to go to the bank and withdrew huge amounts.
They gained the victim’s trust and were convincing, giving a name and collar number and would spend hours explaining things in detail on occasion and persistently ringing victims spanning hours on end if necessary.
‘Couriers’ were then sent to the victims’ home to collect cash.
Some victims handed over their life savings to the gang.
Others became ill or or have died since the offending which bereaved relatives say was a direct result of the stress they suffered after being targeted.
A victim statement was read out in court on behalf of the son of an elderly woman who died after being targeted.
It read: “My mother went downhill and died because of that cold hearted, mindless scum.
“I can’t bring myself to refer them as people. They contributed to the death of our mum.”
Jailing the men, judge Rodney Jameson, QC, said: “These were merciless offences and on occasion gratuitously cruel.
“I am entirely satisfied that the lives of some if the victims have been permanent affected, in some cases severely.
“I have no doubt that some of these have hastened death.
“They are entirely motivated by greed.”
The gang, from London, took a total of £212,000 from victims in various parts of the country - including Leeds and West Yorkshire.
Describing the offending, prosecutor Denise Breen- Lawton said: “The calls were indeed prolific and persistent in order to achieve their aim.”
“They invited the victim to call 999/101 or the bank to verify who they were if they were not believed immediately. What in fact happened is that the victim hung up the phone, but the defendants did not.
“The telephone line was therefore left open, so that when the complainant dialled any number, they came back to the fraudsters. Another one of the gang then pretended on behalf of the bank to verify the identity and existence of the ‘Police Officer’.”
Victims were instructed that their bank account had been the subject of a fraud and they were told to go to the bank and withdraw substantial sums of cash.
In many cases it was cash the victims could ill afford to lose, in many cases they were substantial sums of money that elderly people had saved over their lives.
They encouraged the victims to lie to the bank staff and make up stories as to what the money was for, stating the bank staff were in on the fraud.
They asked what the victims would be wearing so that “CCTV could be checked” later.
The fraudsters persuaded them that this would help with the investigation so fingerprints could be recovered from the bank notes.
Victims were instructed to ask for the money to be put in an envelope and not to touch it themselves to prevent the victims’ fingerprints appearing on the cash.
When the victim returned with the money, further calls were made to them and a short time later a courier attended and collected the cash.
They were often given a “PIN number” to make the security arrangements for the collection of the money seem genuine.
Sometimes bank transfers were requested in order to get hold of the money.
The prosecutor said: “Many victims were taken in by it, some were not fooled and did not lose money despite the fraudsters’ best attempts to obtain large amounts of cash. When they realised they had been conned they were upset and embarrassed by it.”
Some victims who refused to hand over money or became suspicious were often threatened or verbally abused by the gang members.
The court heard that it was likely that the 97 victims were only “the tip of the iceberg” and the gang may have exploited many others who had not reported offences to the police through embarrassment.
The court heard the police encountered great difficulties during their investigation because of the “rare” nature of the fraud.
As a result of the offences police have undertaken extensive negotiations with the telephone companies BT, Virgin and Kingston Communications to persuade them to change their systems so the line cannot be left open the way it has in this case in order to trick the victims.
The cost to BT and Virgin is unknown. The cost to Kingston Communications to make such changes and protect their customers was £300,000.
When real officers tried to contact victims there were not always believed or trusted because of their experience with the fraudster.
The victims became highly distressed and confused by ‘another officer’ phoning them. The real officers were not believed because the fraudsters have damaged the trust the victims have in the Police.
Milad Ahmed was described in court as the head of the organised gang. He was jailed for 11 years.
Items of high value were found at his home address when he was arrested in March last year.
They included an empty Rolex watch box with paperwork indicating he had bought one for £5,250. The watch was found on him when he was later arrested.
A total of £3,980 in cash was found in another Rolex box on top of a wardrobe in his bedroom
A receipt for jewellery bought at Ernest Jones for £1020 found in a safe in his wardrobe
Ahmed was arrested driving a Black BMW Z3 Sports car and had four phones on him. He was in convoy with Mahbub Aziz who was driving a Black Range Rover.
Others the other five gang members to be jailed after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud were: Joynal Miah, jailed for 10 years, six months.
Kevin Bokanga, jailed for five years, Juber Alom, jailed for six years, six months, Sabir Uddin, jailed for five years, six months and Mahbub Aziz, jailed for two years, six months.