Appalling scam targeted vulnerable victims

04/01/2013

A rogue trader who, with others, conned vulnerable victims in Reading and Exeter out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by overcharging them for work appeared at Reading Crown Court yesterday, Thursday, 03 January 2013 for sentence and was jailed for a total of four years and eight months.

Charles Casey pleaded guilty to a number of offences including robbery, fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and money laundering.

The Reading offences took place between 01 June 2010 and 18 February 2011.  Casey targeted the victims and charged extortionate amounts of money for non existent, incomplete or unsatisfactory work.

One of Casey's victims was a Reading couple aged 88 and 90 who were defrauded out of approximately £360,000.

In June 2010 a man who gave his name as 'Jeffery Andrews' cold called the victim and told him that he had a roofing problem, which had led to damp problems.  Jeffery Andrews was a pseudonym and his name was in fact Charles Casey.

Casey told the victim that he would hire a large dehumidifier to complete the work.  The victim agreed to have the work done.  Casey asked for and was given £18,000 to hire the equipment.  Casey asked the victim to write the cheque out in the name of Mr Musa.

A short time later, Casey visited the victim again and told him he needed to hire a bigger machine and asked for another cheque for £18,000 to be issued in the name of Aaron Morris.  The victim complied with the request.

The victim did not hear from Casey for several weeks and so decided to contact him to cancel the work and request a refund.  The victim contacted Casey by mobile telephone.  Casey explained that his company ran a scheme whereby refunds were provided on a priority basis and in order to assess the victim's eligibility he would have to know the details of all his investments.  The victim was persuaded to admit he held investments totalling £325,000.

Over a period of time the victim was contacted by various people who requested further funds to be paid in order to secure a refund of the initial amount paid.  They suggested that if the victim owed more money then he would have a higher priority for the refund payment.  On each occasion, he was given a name to make the cheque payable to and that someone would come and collect the cheque or cash from him.

On 17 February 2011, the victim arranged to meet Casey.  Casey told the victim that he was on the verge of being able to issue the refund, but he needed the victim to withdraw £13,000 from his Halifax account leaving just £1,000 in his account.  The victim withdrew the money and the handover meeting was arranged to take place in the car park of Morrison's in Wokingham.  They met and Casey sat in the front of the victim's vehicle.  The victim refused to hand over the money until he received proof that the funds would be paid back into his account.  Casey grabbed the envelope containing the cash causing the envelope to tear in two and the cash to scatter.  Casey managed to gather approximately £9,500 in cash and made off on foot.

The torn envelope was subsequently seized by the police and examined for fingerprints.  A fingerprint was found on that envelope which was compared to a fingerprint sample obtained during the investigation in Exeter, and was a match to Casey.

The first two cheques given to Casey were also examined for fingerprints.  The results of those examinations also revealed Casey's fingerprints.

The court heard that the victim paid Casey in the region of £360,000.

A number of payments/cheques made to Casey were traced and eight individuals were arrested and charged with money laundering offences.

MILLEN, MORRIS and FALLON pleaded guilty to money laundering.  The other four defendants proceeded to trial and were found guilty of money laundering in October 2012.  They all appeared for sentence at Reading Crown Court on 29 November 2012, and were sentenced as follows:

  • Joseph MUSA - 2 years and 3 months imprisonment
  • Nicholas BARNE - 14 months imprisonment
  • Tarek LAHOUAG - 12 months imprisonment
  • John MILLEN - 12 months imprisonment
  • Michael DEVANNY - 10 months imprisonment
  • Aaron MORRIS - 10 months imprisonment
  • Craig FALLON - 10 months imprisonment

In addition, MILLEN was ordered to repay £62,000 and BARNE was ordered to repay £55,000.

Joanna SLOTWINSKA also proceeded to trial, but was acquitted.

Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This was a cruel and elaborate fraud in which Charles Casey conspired with others to dupe victims in to making large payments.  Casey effectively ran a business to defraud and exploit, and extract money from vulnerable victims.  The offences committed are despicable, pitiless and heartless.

"We have a duty to protect the vulnerable members of our society.  The CPS takes the criminal mistreatment of vulnerable people extremely seriously and built a strong case, linking the incidents, to present the court with the full extent of this gang's offending.  This allowed the Judge to sentence appropriately for this appalling campaign of fraud and intimidation.

"This case should give victims the confidence to speak up.  Victims should not hesitate to report trust cons to the police, so that they can be prosecuted appropriately in order to prevent further victims being preyed upon.

"This case also sends a clear message to those involved in this kind of criminality that we will robustly prosecute them to ensure that justice is done, and that they will pay not only financially, but with their liberty too."