Ruthless fraudsters sent to jail after conning women in St Albans, Harpenden and Radlett
PUBLISHED: 09:17 28 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:49 28 November 2016
A 'despicable' gang of conmen who ruthlessly targeted vulnerable people - including a 96 year old Harpenden woman - in a series of phone scams have been sent to prison.
Three men, all of London, were last Tuesday (22) sentenced to a total of almost 17 years in jail for their roles in the scams, which saw victims across the southeast conned out of almost half a million pounds.
Zakir Alom, 25, from Camden, was sentenced to six years and five months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Fawaz Miah, aged 21, of Camden, was given four years’ prison after admitting conspiracy to steal.
A third Camden man, Rashal Tafader, 23, was sentenced to six years and six months in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to steal on July 28.
The men were part of a gang which targeted elderly victims across nine areas, including the home counties and London, between May 2015 and January 2016.
In each of the offences, victims were contacted by bogus police officers or bank officials, who lied about investigating fraud committed against their victims.
Once the fraudsters had gained their victims’ trust, they conned them into withdrawing large sums of money or to purchase high value items, such as jewellery, in order to help their phoney ‘investigation’.
Among those targeted were women in Harpenden, St Albans and Radlett, ranging in age from 52 to 96.
A woman in Radlett was conned into buying £166,625 worth of Tiffany jewellery, and handing it to a courier. The next day, the victim was told to purchase some watches, and give them to a man who would identify himself to her. But, she had already contacted the police and officers arrested a man.
Numerous people were targeted in St Albans, including an 84 year old, who was ordered to withdraw £7,000, to be collected by a man. The octogenarian was called again and told she needed to withdraw a further £7,000 from a travel agent. On the third occasion, she was asked to withdraw £3,000 which was also handed to a courier.
The conmen attempted – and failed – to steal £5,500 from a 96 year old woman Harpenden, before genuine police officers arrested a man.
On October 1 last year, a St Albans woman was told by a conman that he was from the fraud unit, and that someone had withdrawn thousands of pounds from her account and paid it back with counterfeit money.
She was conned into buying two expensive watches, but fortunately her daughter intervened before they were handed to the courier.
Following an investigation by a specialist team from the Herts Police Operation Manhunt unit, 19 people were arrested and charged in connection with 36 offences.
Some of the offenders, the majority of whom were schoolboys, were caught by officers as they attended addresses to collect cash from the victims.
Following the sentencing of Alom, Miah and Tafader - the main organisers of the scams – at St Albans Crown Court last Tuesday, Detective Sergeant Jon Leak, who led the investigation, said: “This despicable gang ruthlessly targeted vulnerable members of society for their own selfish gains, and I am pleased with [the] sentencing.
“Phone scams can have a devastating effect on the victims, as people often lose vast sums of money as well as their confidence and trust.”
DS Leak warned people to remain “vigilant around unexpected callers. If you have any suspicions, hang up immediately.
“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.”
David Lloyd, Herts Police and Crime Commissioner, welcomed the fraudsters’ sentencing, saying: “It is right that they have now been punished for what they have done to our community.”
• If you think you have been a victim of a phone scam, please contact police on the non-emergency number 101.
• The police and banks would never ask for your bank account details or PIN number over the phone, so do not disclose these to anyone, no matter who they claim to be.
• Neither organisation would ask you to withdraw money and send it to them via a courier, taxi or by any other means, or ask you to send your bank cards, any other personal property, or request that you to transfer money from one account to another over the telephone.