Four men jailed for sophisticated inheritance scam - Luton

12/12/2013

Vulnerable and elderly people across the country were tricked out of £300,000 in a sophisticated inheritance scam.

They responded to letters telling them that as a distant relative of the deceased, they were entitled to a share of a 10 million US dollar fund, that was held in a Hong Kong bank.  If they did not respond, the money would go to the Hong Kong government.

The conmen lured their victims to London from all over the country, including Cornwall, West Midlands, Essex, Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire. Once there they were told the money had been brought into the UK in cash in a diplomatic bag, but had been damaged or blackened during the journey.

Prosecutor Maryam Syed told Luton Crown Court that the victims, who had also paid "customs fees, "  were shown blackened notes in a trunk, a few of which were cleaned in front of them using a special fluid. They were then asked for thousands of pounds to buy the expensive fluid to clean the rest of the money but the cleaned money never materialised.

Some were asked for larger sums for a special machine to clean the notes, and money for 'anti money laundering certificates.' They were also told that some of the fund would be going to good causes.

The court was told , nine victims had been identified, but the police believe there could be more. The scam, which ran from May 2012 to June this year, was investigated by Bedfordshire Police's Serious Crime Investigation Team, after a complaint was made by a victim living in Bedfordshire.

On 13 June this year,  police watched as the son of the Bedfordshire victim, who had already lost £55,000, met one of the gang at the KFC in Barking.  It led to the arrests. Eight other victims were found. Their ages ranged between 61 and 83. One 63 year old man had parted with £150,000.

One of the five men who were arrested, Mark Colloney has since died from a drug overdose.

In the dock on Thursday , 12 December 2013, were David Uzor, 26, of Plumstead High Street, London SE18 who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, involving £234,908. He had no previous convictions and was jailed for three years.

Charles Anih, 40, of Wallace Close, London SE28 also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud involving £252,558. He was of previous good character and was jailed for 42 months.

Lawrence Ameke, 49, of Cowbridge Lane, Barking pleaded guilty to money laundering £72,000. He had a previous conviction for possessing fake identity documents and was jailed for 30 months.

Donovan James, 50, Cambourne Terrace, Romford admitted money laundering about £35,000. He had been jailed for 10 and a half years in 1991 for importing class A drugs. He was jailed for six months.

The Judge made a nominal confiscation order of £1 against the first three defendants as they had no assets to seize as compensation.

Judge Stuart Bridge said the Home Office would consider the deportation of the four. He told them: "This was a sophisticated, ingenious and lucrative confidence fraud resulting in the loss of £300,000 by nine individuals.

"One of the victims has said he found the way he was targeted to be cruel and horrid, as the fraudsters made him feel like they were his friends enabling him to set up his family for life.

"One common feature is how they feel embarrassed and it is a blow to their pride that they have been duped."

He said, it was clear that others were involved in the fraud, adding it was unlikely that those who had been caught had devised the ambitious plan.

The Judge commended the police operation naming DI Paul Baron and Dc Gary Hales for their dedication and hard work.

After the case DI Baron said: "These men preyed of people's vulnerabilities. Most of them were elderly and this has had a massive detrimental effect on their lives.

"Similar frauds are still going on and we would say to people that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is, and we would urge them to contact police before engaging with these people."

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