Bank worker behind £500,000 accounts fraud faces jail term

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A UNIVERSITY student with a gambling problem faces jail today when he is sentenced for spearheading a bank fraud totalling almost £500,000.

Imran Ali, now 25, was a student at Bradford University studying accountancy and had been an employee of HBOS from November 2005. He embarked on a series of frauds from May 2007 until February 2008.

Prosecutor Simon Kealey told Leeds Crown Court yesterday that Ali – described by Judge Chris Batty as “the cash cow” – along with eight defendants and other unknown conspirators used personal customer information stored by the bank and only accessible by employees to target accounts with significant credit balances.

The personal information was then used to create false documentation allowing debits to be made from the accounts. HBOS was then deceived into believing the account holders had legitimately debited their accounts.

Mr Kealey said: “Nine customer accounts were accessed and almost £500,000 taken over a number of transactions. In addition, further transactions amounting to over £100,000 were thwarted by staff in HBOS.

“Ali was the employee of HBOS who accessed all nine accounts and provided the personal information to create false documentation and access to the accounts.

“The remaining defendants either attempted or succeeded in obtaining funds from these accounts.”

He said he had been employed at the bank as a credit card consultant and had access to the computer systems which contained the personal data and account information of all HBOS accounts.

Mr Kealey added that the security system was controlled by a combination of unique passwords which permitted an audit trail of which accounts a member of staff had accessed.

But the court heard the defendant had created a surefire way of making sure he was caught and when bank investigators began an investigation into fradulent activity involving the nine accounts he was the only employee to have accessed all the accounts and who did not have a legitimate business reason to do so.

Mr Kealey said the audit trail revealed he had used the computer search system to randomly trawl the HBOS database on a regular basis.

“This enabled him to identify people with high balances on their accounts. This is how he identified those nine. Ali passed them on to other conspirators. Commercial withdrawals took place. Account holders were unaware of what was happening on their accounts,” he said.

“False documentation was used on a number of occasions. Although nine defendants were identified there were clearly others involved who evaded capture. There was also a significant geographical spread with conspirators in West Yorkshire, the Midlands and the London area. In many cases the defendants appear to have no direct connection to each other.”

Ali, of Laisterdyke, Bradford, was arrested in February 2008 and interviewed by police.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.

Richard Gioserano, mitigating, said: “He has provided other people with the ability to obtain large amounts of money that was not theirs.”

He said he had been paid £2,000 “by someone who is not in the dock”.

Drug addict Christine Lutzu, 46, of London, and Gul Naveed Sehotvi, 30, of Laisterdyke, who at earlier hearings had pleaded guilty to offences involving conpiracy to defraud and money laundering were sentenced yesterday.

Lutzu, who was provided with a false passport to carry out a £1,200 scam, was given a sentence of six months imprisonment suspended for 18 months along with a supervision requirement to comply with a programme for drug misuse.

The judge said Sehotvi who got £3,000 out of an £8,000 ‘split’ with Ali was of good character apart from an earlier caution and sentenced him to a community order of 12 months with 250 hours of unpaid work.

Most of the other defendants will be sentenced today.