'Most wanted' fraudster Bayo Awonorin jailed

Bayo Awonorin Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption Bayo Awonorin was extradited from the US in September

A man who appeared on the National Crime Agency's 10 most wanted fraudsters campaign has been jailed for nine and a half years.

Bayo Awonorin, 44, admitted two charges of conspiring with others to defraud public institutions and to convert criminal property.

Leicester Crown Court heard he played a leading role in the operation.

He was originally arrested in 2012 but fled the country. He was extradited from the US in September.

The offences occurred between 1 January 2011 and 31 July 2012.

The fraud targeted public bodies including the States of Guernsey Government, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Middlesbrough Council and Derby University.

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.

'Prime mover'

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.

Others, including health trusts in Sheffield and Tyne and Wear, ignored the bogus emails.

Awonorin, previously from Bexley, London, had been the subject of a BBC Crimewatch appeal and was named as one of the National Crime Agency's 10 most wanted fraudsters in 2016.

Sentencing him, Judge Philip Head said Awonorin had played "a leading and directing role from the cradle to the grave of the operation".

In 2017, 10 conspirators were given sentences of up to 10 years in prison for their part in the fraud.

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

At the time, the judge described Awonorin, who was still at large, as the "prime mover" in the case.

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