Who says crime pays?

04/01/2013

Criminals have been hit in the pocket to the tune of over £1.4 million by Staffordshire Police so far in 2012/13.

The force's Financial Investigators, working with all departments across the service, have obtained confiscation orders totalling £1,437,217 between April and October 2012 - 50 per cent more than in the same period last year - and forfeited £164,712 in cash (up 31 per cent).

Confiscation orders, issued at court, make offenders pay the cash equivalent of their benefit from crime - meaning they have to sell off possessions including homes, cars and other luxury items, such as jewellery or plasma television, acquired through a criminal lifestyle.

The increase in confiscation orders is down to a focused effort on cash recovery with increased use of Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) powers and legislation by the FIU who work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service around money laundering legislation.

Significant asset recovery cases in 2012 include:

  • Following information sharing with the UK Borders Agency, Staffordshire's Crime Support carried out an investigation into a Chinese couple living in Newcastle. Almost £320,000 cash was recovered during a raid at the drug ring couples address in Porthill. Le Ma, 31, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment and his partner Khai Ling Lim, 35, was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years, with two years supervision and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work. The case is subject to a confiscation order which is still in progress
  • A £12,000 compensation order was made against Lynda Greatrix, 59, from Rugeley, who worked as a carer for an elderly woman in Stafford. She was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to fraud by abuse of position.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Clews, head of Staffordshire Police's Crime Support, said: "Staffordshire Police continue to robustly strip criminals of their assets, working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.

"We also believe there is a strong link between hitting offenders in the pocket and cutting organised crime through to anti-social behaviour.

"As a force, we're taking positive action to engage young people in our communities and help them turn their lives around through initiatives such as the Right Stuff Boxing Club and ReCylce - and criminals are helping to pay for this.

"We will continue to strip offenders of their ill gained assets and urge anyone with information about people making an unfair living from crime to ring us on 101 or contact independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111."

Colin Molloy from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "We value the joint approach with Police Financial Investigators to ensure assets are restrained at an early stage in an investigation and property recovered to be used where appropriate to compensate the victims.

"CPS lawyers prepare applications for court and then robustly make applications to secure orders beneficial to victims but which are also aimed at depriving offenders from benefiting from crime.

"In one case where the defendant Robert Edwin Plant, aged 70, stole from his local Methodist Church and a charity, a custodial sentence was added to by a successful application for a confiscation order in excess of £73,000 to be paid as compensations to his victims. In another case, Joseph Loforte, 56, was found guilty of producing cannabis grown at his property and the CPS also managed to obtain £150,000.

"These are a few examples of how the CPS takes the recovery of assets seriously and is committed to playing its part in ensuring offenders do not benefit from crime. We have recently created a centralised CPS Unit in Birmingham staffed by specialist prosecutors engaged full time in dealing with increasingly more complex cases deserving of the time needed to recover assets stolen or bought from the proceeds of crime."

Mr Molloy also explained the value of requesting a nominal order of £1 so frequently reported in the press but little understood by ordinary members of the public. He said: "Such orders are important to allow us to revisit the case and seek an increase in the financial order in the event that at a later time the offender is found to have greater assets than originally believed."