FOUR members of a gang who preyed on dozens of elderly victims, conning them out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, have been jailed for a total of 20 years and eight months yesterday (Friday 9 June).
Mohammed Rahman, Muhammed Maarjan, Muhammed Hussain and Shoriful Islam were handed the sentences when they appeared at Bristol Crown Court.
The four had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiring to commit fraud by false representation.
Rahman, Maarjan and Islam had also admitted possessing criminal property.
Officers from Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit began investigating the gang after discovering a victim in Cirencester.
Before their arrest in April last year, the gang had contacted hundreds of potential victims across the country by telephone, targeting a region for a number of days before moving on to the next.
Once they had found a victim, the offenders, pretending to be police officers, patiently relayed a convincingly disturbing tale of a fraud investigation that had identified counterfeit currency being transferred into their bank accounts.
They were encouraged to go and remove thousands of pounds from their accounts immediately in order to hand it over to a “courier” sent by “the police”.
In total, they conned at least 60 vulnerable victims out of more than £290,000, dating back to 2019, and attempted to contact many thousands more, making around 7,000 calls to potential victims between January and April 2021.
Most of the victims were over the age of 75, with two aged 99. Some of them were terminally ill or had dementia and other age related issues.
Many victims have been unable to recoup their loss.
The team worked closely with 20 other forces across the country to identify further victims and collate evidence, as well as liaising with City of London Police, which leads on courier fraud nationally.
Following intensive work by officers across Gloucestershire Constabulary, a warrant was executed at a property in Theberton Street, London on 6 April 2021.
When members of the gang tried to escape through an upstairs window, officers gave chase across the rooftops, eventually catching and arresting Hussain, Maarjan, Rahman, and Islam.
Subsequent searches found cash, expensive designer clothing, Rolex watches, a Mercedes Benz and an Audi, which were all seized by officers.
Rahman, 27, and of Leirum Street, Islington, was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to commit fraud and two years for possessing criminal property, to run concurrently.
Islam, 24, of Highbury New Park, Islington was sentenced to four years and eight months for conspiracy to commit fraud and two years for possessing criminal property, to run concurrently.
Hussain, 24, and of Collier Street, Islington, was sentenced to five years and four months for conspiracy to commit fraud.
Maarjan, 23, and of James Morgan Mews, Islington, was sentenced to four years and eight months for conspiracy to commit fraud and two years for possessing criminal property, to run concurrently.
Sentencing the men, Judge Michael Cullum told them: “Each of you were fully aware of the scale of the operation you were involved in and you were additionally aware of the basis of the fraud, which was to prey on the trust of the elderly.
“The fraud depended upon recognising and exploiting the frailty of the elderly.
“You found them in the last years of their lives. They rightfully had trust in the banks. They also had trust in the police, and rightfully so.
“You took from these elderly victims so much more than money. They were told if they did not comply, they would lose their life savings, which is exactly what did happen.
“At least half of them have failed to be reimbursed by the banks, because they told lies at your behest. These were your lies.
“These victims were intelligent, retired professionals who would naturally wish to assist the authorities.
“They were severely embarrassed and distressed by the loss of their savings, saying that they felt stupid. They are not. They were conned.
“I have no doubt that the effect on them has been to irretrievably change the way they look at life and society. It is bound to affect them for the rest of their days.”
Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Matt Phillips, who led the investigation, said: “This sentence shows how seriously we take courier fraud.
“It was the result of a lot of immense hard work from many officers at Gloucestershire Constabulary, who went above and beyond to ensure that we could show just how low these men were willing to stoop in order to defraud the vulnerable and elderly.
“I want any gangs who try to target the people in our communities to know that we will not sit back but will actively pursue them for their crimes, not just in Gloucestershire but anywhere in the country.
“Following their arrest last year, no courier fraud was recorded at all for a period of months in Gloucestershire, and significant reductions were seen across other parts of the country, which shows that our message is getting through. We will not stop until we bring you to justice.
“I would like to thank not just the officers involved in this case, but the victims and their families who have bravely come forward. These men were sophisticated con artists and were able to pull the wool over many intelligent people’s eyes before being stopped.
“This has had a huge impact on many victims who have not only seen a huge financial loss, but have been left with psychological damage resulting in some being too scared to answer the phone or even leave their house.
“I hope that this sentence will bring some peace to the men and women they targeted.”
Kevin Hansford from the CPS, said: “The fraudsters presented themselves in a convincing way to victims, securing the trust of hundreds of elderly people through their falsehoods. The sole purpose of the criminals was to enrich themselves, at the expense of vulnerable people who badly needed their hard-earned savings and pension income.
“I would like to thank the many victims who supported this prosecution and the hard-working Gloucestershire and Hertfordshire Police who enabled us to prove the case against this gang’s callous criminal enterprise.”
Two further people, Kawsar Ahmed and Mohammed Ahmed, are due to be sentenced on Tuesday 28 June.