Jail for London gang who set up fake police operation to con Stevenage and Knebworth elderly in £32,000 scam
Members of a London gang who tricked elderly people into thinking their relatives had been arrested before conning them out of more than £32,000 have been jailed.
Between March and May 2016, the gang of six men and one woman targeted 20 victims across Stevenage and Knebworth by calling their numbers claiming to be police officers, telling them they had their relatives – usually their grandchildren – in custody.
They were told the arrests were in connection with fraudulent use of their bank cards and persuaded them to go to cash tills and withdraw large sums of money as part of what they claimed to be a ‘police investigation’.
This money was then collected from the victims’ addresses by a courier.
Thankfully, some of the intended victims recognised it was a scam and hung up, but others handed over large sums of money. As well as Stevenage and Knebworth, others in Surrey and Kent were also targeted.
The frauds were investigated by Operation Manhunt, a unit within Hertfordshire Constabulary which looks in to courier fraud offences targeting the elderly and vulnerable.
As a result, six men and one woman were arrested between May 3 and August 18, 2016.
All seven were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and were sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday.
Tahera Chowdhury, aged 22, from Vale Road in Dartford, Kent, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Mohammed Noor, 21, from Crowndale Road in Camden, London, admitted the offences and was sentenced to four years and eight months.
Luthfur Rahman, 23, from Wells Square in King’s Cross, London, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and six months in jail.
Shaker Chowdhury, 24, from Acton Street in King’s Cross, London, was found guilty and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.
Mohammed Reyhan Miah, 21, from New North Street in Bloomsbury, London, was found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to three years and four months in jail.
Sabbir Ahmed, 20, from Clerkenwell Road in Islington, London, was found guilty and was sentenced to 18 months and Sadik Omar, 32, from Endsleigh Gardens in Bloomsbury, London, was found guilty and was sentenced to eight months.
Speaking after the sentencing, Det Sgt Jon Leak said: “Phone scams can have a devastating effect on the victims, as they often lose vast sums of money as well as their confidence and trust. I hope this sentence serves as a warning that we will continue to do everything in our power to disrupt, identify and bring these offenders to justice.
“I would remind people to please remain vigilant around unexpected callers. If you have any suspicions about a call, hang up immediately. Police and banks would never ask for your pin number over the phone and would never ask you to withdraw money and send it to them via courier.
“Remember, when reporting a suspicious phone call to police, 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.
“Please share this advice with elderly friends, relatives and neighbours to try and prevent more people falling victim to these fraudsters.”
If you think you have been targeted in similar circumstances you should report it to police on the non-emergency number on 101.
For crime prevention advice around scams targeting older people visit www.herts.police.uk/advice/crime_prevention/protect_your_money/scams_targeting_older_people.aspx
You can also sign up to the Senior Watch scheme, which uses the award-winning OWL (Online Watch Link) system to send free crime alerts and associated advice, as well as messages about fire prevention, health and information from Trading Standards.
Visit www.owl.co.uk for more information. Alternatively, contact 101 and ask for your local watch liaison officer.