Five crooks who posed as police officers and stole thousands of pounds using a series of phone scams have been jailed for more than 15 years today.
The group tricked 11 people – one of which lives in Thame – into handing over bank cards and PIN numbers and stole more than £40,000 from them.
Of the frauds, two occurred in Bishop’s Stortford, one in Dedham, Essex, and Steeple Bumpstead, Essex; one each in Bedford, Basingstoke and Thame and one attempted theft in Felixstowe, Suffolk.
One of their victims, an elderly woman in Hertfordshire, lost more than £20,000 over the course of 30 days when members of the group kept up the pretence and phoned her every day asking for more money.
In all the offences they posed as police officers or bank staff and told their victims that their bank accounts had been infiltrated by thieves.
They usually claimed to be from the Metropolitan Police and used the names DC Lescott, DC, DS or DI Rogers or DI Maguire.
The tricksters claimed that as part of their investigations they needed to do forensic tests on the victim’s bank cards and PIN numbers or large amounts of cash.
Two of the group acted as couriers and collected cards and PIN numbers, which were used immediately at cash machines near their victim’s homes.
Mohammed Miah, 21 and of Coopers Lane, Kings Cross, Muhammad Ahmed, 22 and of Hemingway Close, Gospel Oak, Motahir Rahman, 23 and of Kiln Place, Kentish Town, Dedar Ali, 20 and of Cressfield Close, NW5, and Mohammed Hussain, 23 and of Malden Crescent, NW1, all admitted conspiracy to defraud between March and July last year.
Miah and Hussain carried out the collections while the others posed as police officers.
Four of the men were arrested in July after search warrants were executed in north London during an operation by officers from the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) which in March set up a special task force to investigate the rapidly-spreading frauds by thieves posing as police or bank officials. A fifth man, Ali, was arrested in October.
More than 80 officers from Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and the Metropolitan Police Service Police were involved in the searches of addresses in the Camden area.
Numerous phones and computers were seized by the regional team, which was set up to investigate hundreds of similar frauds and attempted frauds being carried out across East Anglia.
The five men were sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on Monday Feb 2 after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Miah was jailed for three years and seven months.
Hussain was jailed for three years and nine months.
Rahman was jailed for three years and four months.
Ali was jailed for three years and four months.
Ahmed was jailed for three years and seven months.
Judge Stephen Warner, who felt that it was warranted to make a departure from the sentencing guidelines to ensure the sentences reflected the seriousness of the offences, told the five: “These were mean and cynical offences deliberately planned to take advantage of the vulnerable and done to obtain financial gain.
“Those who commit these offences can expect substantial terms of imprisonment.”
Detective Inspector Danny Lawrence, who leads the ERSOU Cyber Crime Unit, said: “These men preyed on the elderly and vulnerable and took advantage of people’s trusting nature.
“They left the victims and their families in a great deal of distress by committing these frauds and this has been reflected in today’s sentencing.
“I hope this sends out a clear message to anyone thinking about becoming involved in organised crime and, particularly in this case, phone scams.
“We will identify you and we will bring you to court.
“These arrests were made following effective partnership and collaboration through ERSOU where a number of police forces are working together.
“This should reinforce the message that the eastern region is a hostile place for organised crime and we will continue to identify, disrupt and dismantle any organised crime groups.”
If you receive a call you’re not expecting, you should be suspicious. The vital things to remember are that your bank and the police would:
> NEVER ask for your bank account details or PIN number over the phone, so do not disclose these to anyone, no matter who they claim to be
> NEVER ask you to withdraw money and send it to them via a courier, taxi or by any other means
> NEVER ask you to send your bank cards, or any other personal property, to them via courier, taxi or by any other means
If you are not happy with a phone call and are suspicious of the conversation you have with the caller, then please end the call and contact police via the non-emergency number, 101.
When reporting a suspicious phone call to police, remember to wait at least five minutes before attempting to make the call or use a mobile or neighbour’s phone to ensure you’re not reconnected to the offender.