Criminals who pretended to be police officers to con elderly and vulnerable victims out of more than £200,000 in a nationwide fraud have been jailed for more than 30 years.
The men were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday for the offences which targeted people from Huddersfield, Bradford, Skegness, Oxford, Bournemouth, Barnsley, North Yorkshire, London, Hampshire, Surrey, Newark on Trent, Nottingham, Mansfield, Newquay, Worcester and Warwickshire.
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A total of 25 victims were identified during the investigation by the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Officers from the unit also prevented four other people being conned out of £28,000.
The offences took place between 23 July and 15 September 2014.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Spencer of the Regional Command Team, said:
“This was part of an organised criminal network which was involved in a large scale conspiracy to commit fraud targeting elderly and vulnerable people.
“The actions of this group have had a devastating impact on the lives of the victims. The group abused the often trusting nature of people to defraud them out of large sums of money – often their life savings. Some of the victims have not had all of their money back.
“Thanks, however, to the detailed and thorough investigation by my team, and in particular Detective Constable Heather Shearer, the nine have been brought to justice and most of them now have time in prison to consider the consequences of their actions and the impact on the people they have defrauded.
“We know that often the reporting of these types of offences is low – and I would urge anyone who has been the victim of this type of offence but who hasn’t reported it to call police.”
Throughout the offending the group would call intended victims on their landlines with the caller identifying themselves as a police officer from the Metropolitan Police investigating a fraud.
They would then convince victims that their bank account had been compromised and that their money was in danger.
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In doing this they would gain the trust of the victim and often instruct them to verify who they are by telling them to hang up the call and call the bank (using the number on the back of their card) or 999.
Another suspect would then pretend to be the bank or the 999 operator and the victim would be led to believe they are speaking to genuine bank officials or the police.
What they didn’t realise was that the suspects were still on the line and the victim was then told that the bank was involved in the scam and was convinced to lie to the bank tellers, should they be questioned about withdrawals or transfers.
The victim was told not to tell anyone what they were doing as this could jeopardise the investigation, leaving the victim feeling isolated and alone.
The group would then use one of two methods to obtain money from victims:
One was to inform the victim they needed to go to their bank and withdraw a large amount of cash (usually between £5,000 - £20,000). The offenders would send someone around to the victim’s house to collect the cash. Victims were told that the person collecting the money was also a police officer.
The other was to tell the victim they needed to transfer a large amount of money (again, usually between £5,000 - £20,000) to another bank account provided by the suspect. Victims were given an account holder’s name, account number and sort code.
DCI Spencer added:
“The criminals were very tenacious when committing their crimes. They would often call victims several times within a short space of time and would regularly check up on the status of transfers.
“Some reported how they were contacted by several different aliases of police officers or bank officials in an attempt to further engage with them.”
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Full list of defendants and their sentences:
Mahbub Aziz, 24 of Walden Street, London pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years.
Shahidur Ali, 24, of Byng Street, London pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to six and a half years
Mohammed Hadi, 34, of Uamvar Street, London was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and acquiring criminal property. He was sentenced to eight years.
Mohammed Noor, 23, of Crowndale Road, London admitted conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to 21 months.
Mohammed Naahe, 50, of Jodrell Road, London admitted conspiracy to defraud, acquiring criminal property, entering into a money laundering arrangement and possession of an article to be used in fraud. He was sentenced to seven years, two months.
Syed Ahmed, 35, of Oban Street, Tower Hamlets, admitted conspiracy to defraud and acquiring criminal property and was sentenced to nine months.
Mohammed Haque, 43, of an address off Longlands Road in Sidcup was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to two years, three months.
Ismail Hoque, 21, of Osbourne Street, Oldham admitted acquiring criminal property and was sentenced to eight months suspended for 12 months, with 16 hours unpaid community work.
Shah Abdal, 46, of White Horse Road, London, was found guilty of acquiring criminal property and was sentenced to two and a half years.
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Advice to guard against this fraud includes:
A bank and / or the police will never ask you to give your account details, pin or security code over the phone and will never ask you to hand over cash.
If you receive a call from someone asking for this information and other details such as passwords then do not give it. End the call immediately and wait five minutes to make sure the caller has cleared the line or use a different phone to report the matter to police.
If you are concerned about a call you have received call police on 101 or Action Fraud on 0300 1232040 (or visit the website – www.actionfraud.police.uk
Please remember elderly neighbours and or relatives and that they are aware of these types of scams.
For more information on how to protect yourself from bank and on-line fraud see: www.westyorkshire.police.uk/blockthewebmonsters