Saturday, April 30, 2016

London - fraud gang face prison for £1m scam on elderly

By Jutin Davenport -  The Evening Standard - A London fraud gang which targeted pensioners to raise cash to fund Islamic State in Syria could have escaped with millions of pounds, it emerged today.

Nine men face jail today for their part in the “bank of terror” fraud in which conmen tricked elderly victims into handing over their life savings by posing as police officers on the phone. Two have already been jailed.

One victim, a 94-year-old man from north-west London, lost £130,000.

Among those convicted was Mohamed Dahir, 23, of Finsbury Park, who was supported in an earlier bail application by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, his local MP.

Another being sentenced at the Old Bailey today is Nathan Fagan-Gayle, 29, an X Factor finalist, who laundered thousands of pounds of the cash.

Mohammed Youssfi, 38, of West Brompton, has already been jailed for 20 months for money laundering and fraud after he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. Mohammed Abokar, 28, of Islington, was sentenced to 18 months for money laundering.

Commander Dean Haydon, the head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, described the men as an organised crime group who “callously and systematically” preyed on the elderly and vulnerable. He urged people to be alert to calls from people claiming to be police officers or bank employees, saying they would never ask for bank details on the phone or by email.

He said: “These people were committing fraud on an industrial scale.

“They pretended to be police officers who were trying to uncover a fraud in the banking system and won the trust of their victims and persuaded them to hand over their pin numbers and bank details. As a result people were duped out of their life savings.”

The investigation by officers from the National Terrorism Financial Investigation Unit uncovered 16 phone lines used to make 6,000 calls to about 4,000 different numbers.

Detectives found evidence of 140 frauds which raked in more than £1 million but investigators believe dozens of victims have been too scared to come forward. They believe total losses could run into millions.

At an earlier hearing a prosecutor told magistrates the funds were being used to buy weapons and bullets in a scam referred to as “the bank of terror”.

Fagan-Gayle, from Mitcham, who appeared in the 2012 X Factor series, laundered £20,000 in cash and spent most of it on designer clothes and flights to LA. Officers identified Makzhumi Abukar, 24, as the main organiser and co-ordinator, directing the frauds from his Holloway address.

The fraud and money laundering was revealed after investigators found unusual payments to a British jihadist who moved to Syria.

Detectives believe some of the cash was used to fund the travel of UK citizens to fight for Islamic State in Syria.

Victim Elizabeth Curtis, 73, from Cornwall, said she also lost £130,000. In an interview with the BBC she said: “I was absolutely stunned and shocked, and could not believe I had been so stupid and naive as to be taken in.”

The gang, who were convicted of either conspiracy to commit fraud or money laundering offences, also included Fahim Islam, 21, of Stepney, Achmed Ahmed, 23, of Holloway, Anrul Islam, 24, of Dagenham, Sakaria Aden, 22, of Stoke Newington, Yasser Abukar, 24, of Holloway, and Warsame Sheik, 30, of White City.