London

Phone fraud: O2 'loses £4.5m in premium line scam'

A mobile phone company lost nearly £4.5m in a sophisticated premium phone line scam, a court has heard.

The scam was carried out by a gang of five men, from London, Essex and Birmingham, due to be sentenced on Wednesday for conspiracy to defraud.

Southwark Crown Court heard they used stolen identities to obtain mobile phone Sim cards which were sent abroad.

Premium rate lines were acquired and the cards used to make multiple calls, generating "substantial" bills for O2.

Mohammad Butt, 42, of Forest Gate, east London, Abrar Arshad, 35, of Rochford, Essex, Nikhil Jamsandekar, 33, of Forest Gate, east London, Abiola Salami, 30, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, and Ade James, 25, of Queensbury, Birmingham, all pleaded guilty.

The fraud was discovered when innocent people in whose names the phone had been bought began to receive bills, the court heard.

'Respected' in community

David Hughes, prosecuting, said: "The reason that these defendants were effectively caught was analysts at O2 were able to identify specific handsets which had been used to test some of the fraudulently obtained Sim cards."

The court heard Butt, a Pakistani national with a legitimate mobile phone business, had no previous convictions.

Dexter Dias, defending, said he was "well respected" in the Muslim community and his involvement was limited to testing a fraction of the Sim cards involved.

Jamsandekar, an Indian national, has no previous convictions and had leave to remain in the UK until 2013.

His barrister, Johannah Cutts QC, said he was "deeply ashamed" of his involvement, but had no overall knowledge of the fraud.

James, a Nigerian national, was described as "remorseful" by his barrister.

Two others were sentenced over the case. Loretta Charlton, 22, a nursery nurse of Walsall, West Midlands, received a conditional discharge for two years after pleading guilty to handling two stolen handsets.

Cyril Okolie, 35, of Birmingham, received a nine-month prison sentence for possessing a false driving licence, but walked free having already spent 340 days in custody.

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