Five courier fraud con men posing as police officers who tricked elderly people into handing over more than £700,000 have been jailed.
Fawaz Miah, 26, Fras Abdulkarim, 20, Abdul Olayinka, 19, Noor Sharif, 20, and Sahil Zaman, 22, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and money laundering offences.
Between 2018 and 2019 the swindlers would contact their victims via telephone pretending to be police officers and claiming their bank savings were at risk.
Victims were told “fraudulent activity” had been flagged on their accounts and they should withdraw their money.
The men would tell some victims to visit their bank and withdraw large amounts of cash, they said would be collected by the ‘officers’ for fingerprinting. On other occasions they were instructed to convert savings by purchasing expensive watches and jewellery, including a Rolex worth more than £26,000, and foreign currency, before handing them over to a courier.
Victims were told to lie to bank staff offering bogus reasons as to why they were withdrawing vast amounts of money as they were told staff were “complicit” in the fraudulent activity.
Zaman and Miah were said to be the “organisers” and “top of the tree” of the conspiracy, with Abdulkarim and Sharif acting as “middle-men” and sometime supervisors. The victims really did think they were helping the police.
The plot was uncovered by detectives from the North-East Regional Special Operations Unit, with the help of other forces and agencies. The investigation team identified 16 victims across the UK, who in total had lost more than £700,000 at the hands of the criminals. One individual last more than £450,000.
In August 2021, three of the men, Miah, Abdulkarim and Olayinka, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, while Zaman and Sharif faced a jury trial.
At Durham Crown Court Miah, of Cromer St, Camden, London, received six years behind bars; Zaman, of Cromer Street, Camden, was sentenced to nine years; Sharif, of Camden Park Road, London, was locked up for two years and 11 months.
Olayinka, of Harrowgate Road, London, saw his 21-month sentence suspended for two years while Abdulkarim, of Great Russell Street, London, also received a suspended sentence, of two years.
Detective Constable Gillian Coulson, the officer who ran the investigation, said: “This is a cruel crime in which criminals target the most vulnerable members of our community and steal their life savings.
“This is a great outcome for the victims and one which protects the public from further offending. We remain dedicated to pursuing anyone who seeks to defraud others and we encourage people to look out for vulnerable family members and friends and to challenge anyone on the phone asking for money or valuables.”