England

Fraudsters behind £12m UK-wide scam jailed

Leicester Crown Court Image copyright Google
Image caption Ten conspirators were sentenced at Leicester Crown Court

Fraudsters who conned NHS hospitals, councils and a government out of more than £12m have been sentenced.

Ten conspirators were given sentences at Leicester Crown Court of up to 10 years in prison.

In each case forged letters, emails or faxes were sent to the 22 targeted organisations, pretending to be from a legitimate firm already carrying out contract works.

The biggest victim was the Guernsey government, which lost £2.6m.

In one case, a £1.28m payment to build a mental health unit at Lincoln's St George's Hospital was diverted when NHS trust staff failed to check the new bank details supplied.

It was only when an employee of the building firm Costain saw the bogus letter, with its logo out of place, a fake reference number and signatures, that the alarm was raised.

Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust then called in the police at the end of 2011, sparking a lengthy investigation, led by Lincolnshire Police with support from NHS Protect.

After sentencing on 23 June, Det Sgt Mike Billam, said: "I am pleased to say that with the assistance of law enforcement in Dubai, Poland and other countries, this investigation has got to the heart of this conspiracy and has disabled what was clearly an international organised crime group."

'Sophisticated'

The fraudsters took advantage of the fact that public sector contracts were freely available to see, under financial transparency rules.

In sentencing, Judge Philip Head said: "This was a sophisticated and widespread fraud in its conception and execution", adding, "these bodies were selected because it was hoped their accounting processes would be vulnerable."

"The loss falls necessarily on those who are not able to pay it, ultimately the members of the public whose taxes fund these bodies," he said.

However, what the judge called the "prime-mover", identified in court as Nigerian national Bayo Awonorin, was still at large, having failed to answer to police bail.

Two other men, John Woodhatch, then 56, and Adrian Taylor, 44, have already been jailed for a total of 11 years at Southwark Crown Court in September 2015, for money laundering and acquiring criminal property.

Among the conspirators was a former nightclub toiletries' seller, company directors and a newsagent.

Those sentenced

The sentences were given on 23 June, but reporting restrictions were in place at the time.

  • Stephen Tyndale, 47, of Albany Road, Southwark, London, was jailed for 10 years each, for conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder money, to run concurrently
  • Asif Habib, 53, of Al Barsha, Dubai, 40 months for conspiracy to launder money
  • Imitiaz Khoda, 44, of Dallas Road, Lancaster, 54 months for conspiracy to launder money
  • Abdul Naeem, 36, of Lineholt Close, Redditch, Worcestershire 67 months for conspiracy to launder money
  • Mohammed Nadeem, 33, also of Redditch, 67 months for conspiracy to launder money
  • Oghogho Ehanire, 42, of Brackenbury Road, Preston, Lancashire, 12 months suspended for two years for laundering
  • Yagnesh Patel, 46, of Rookery Road, Staines, Surrey; 15 months, suspended for two years for laundering
  • Zaheed Muhammed, 48, of Tinto Road, Glasgow; 21 months, suspended for two years for laundering
  • Abdul Ghaffar, 68, of Lineholt Close, Redditch; 22 weeks, suspended for two years for laundering
  • Tariq Khan, 35, of Meadway, Ilford, Essex, was jailed for eight months and ordered to repay £20,000 to the Lincolnshire NHS trust after admitting perverting the course of justice by supplying false documents to police

An 11th person, Monica Thomson, 40, of Ivy Way, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, will be sentenced for her part in the conspiracy next month.

The targets

  • States of Guernsey Government was defrauded of the largest single amount, £2.6m, and the cash funnelled into seven separate accounts
  • Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust lost £1.28m, which was laundered through eight separate bank accounts
  • The Royal College of Art paid out £1.26m but all the money was recovered
  • Royal Free Hampstead Hospital paid out £1.43m to the fraudsters, but the cash was returned
  • St Paul's School, in Barnes, Middlesex, was cheated out of £937,015, but all money was recovered
  • Kingston University transferred £1.75 million, however the money was returned
  • North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust was defrauded of £896,700, with £536,966 was recovered
  • Goodmans Logistics, in Solihull, West Midlands, was targeted and paid £1.052m, which ended up being laundered by crooks through 15 separate accounts: £255,000 was recovered
  • Dundee City Council was asked for £396,977, but the fraud was identified shortly afterwards and the cash recovered
  • Falkirk Council was targeted but the request was ignored
  • Middlesbrough Council paid out £236,477, although £197,718 was recovered
  • Derby University paid out £314,438, with £173,818 of the money later recovered by the bank
  • Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust ignored the fraudulent request
  • Galliford Try PLC were defrauded of £187,703, of which £12,569 was recovered
  • Freebridge Community Housing in Norfolk, received a fraudulent request by fax, but ignored it
  • Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were targeted but did not respond
  • Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust, paid £261,260. All the money was lost
  • Greenfield Housing Association ignored the fake bank account details and paid nothing
  • Clackmannanshire Council in Scotland ignored the letter it received from fraudsters
  • Derwent Valley Holdings PLC was targeted but ignored the bogus letter it received
  • Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust also ignored the bogus email they received
  • Plymouth University was targeted but never responded to the fake communication

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