Bricket Wood woman jailed for four years for her role in counterfeit ID fraud
PUBLISHED: 14:32 16 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:32 16 February 2018
A ‘foot soldier’ caught up in a counterfeit ID factory, and her accomplices - who carried out a £1m online fraud using fake identity documents - have been jailed for a total of 22 and a half years.
Maria Bilici, 33, of Hunters Ride, Bricket Wood, St Albans, was found guilty of conspiracy to money launder, money laundering and fraud on December 15 2017 and was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court to a total of four years imprisonment today.
The fraud involved hundreds of fake adverts for non-existent goods and services being placed on legitimate classifieds websites, such as eBay. Over a hundred bank accounts were set up at high street banks to receive money from the fraud. These accounts were set up using counterfeit EU National ID cards, passports and utility bills produced by the gang.
Bilici’s role was in laundering the proceeds of the fraud. In 2017, Bilici began trying to sell her assets including her house and a Range Rover car. She also fraudulently obtained a £25K loan which was encashed and sent overseas – described by the sentencing judge as ‘one last roll of the dice in this jurisdiction’. Bilici had intended to leave the UK for good but was arrested on July 5 2017, before the contract of the sale of the house could be signed.
Bilici’s boss Dragoz Dragomir, 34, previously of Southmead Crescent in Cheshunt, was sentenced today to seven years and six months imprisonment after being found guilty on December 14 2017 of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder, possession of fake ID documents and possession of equipment adapted for making fake ID documents.
Mihai Cirstoiu, 37, of Ray Lodge Road in Woodford, who masterminded the fraud scam, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and money laundering on July 28 2017. Today he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
Bilici was one of three ‘foot soldiers’ who opened the bank accounts and withdrew the money from ATMs around the country.
Also sentenced today were George Cerneanu, 25, of no fixed abode, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and possession of false ID documents on July 18 2017. He was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment.
Georgian Alexandru Stanciu, 27, of Onslow Gardens, Woodford previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to money launder and possession of false ID documents on July 28 2017 and was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment.
Dragomir, a Romanian national, was arrested on 28th June 2017, and was found to be wanted under a European Arrest Warrant issued in Romania for fraud convictions in 2007. Dragomir was living under the false name of Andrei Bernath and renting office space in Gorray House, Great Cambridge Road, Enfield. Police searched the premises and discovered a fake ID ‘factory’ with multiple printers and computers set up to mass-produce fake identification documents. Sample ID cards used to advertise his services were also found, including an image on a mobile telephone of a ‘mocked up’ UK driving license bearing the image of former British Prime Minster, David Cameron.
Co-defendants George Cerneanu and Georgian Alexandru Stanciu were issued with Dragomir’s fake ID by Mihai Cirstoiu and sent to towns all over the UK including Birmingham, Liverpool and Ipswich to open bank accounts and ‘cash out’ fraudulent monies. Cerneanu was arrested when attempting to withdraw money from an account held at Santander in Liverpool on 13 June 2017. Stanciu was arrested at his home address on July 12 2017.
DC Chris Collins from FALCON, the Met’s response to Fraud and Linked Crime Online, said: “I am pleased with today’s sentencing. Members of an organised criminal network that ran a sophisticated scam defrauding hundreds of victims have been imprisoned for a significant period.”
“Dragomir was an enabler of serious crime whose products are likely to have helped others net millions of pounds from fraud and evade immigration control. I am sure the arrest of Dragomir has helped to disrupt other criminal networks. Dragomir was a professional forger specialising in counterfeit Romanian, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Slovakian, Austrian and Italian National Identity Cards, UK driving licenses and Italian passports. He also made fake utility bills and wage slips.”
“I would advise anyone shopping online to pay within the official payment mechanism in use by the website. Do not transfer money directly to a bank account – you will not be protected.”