Five men have been sentenced for their parts in laundering more than £1million in funds from online fraud.
An investigation, known as Operation Expedition, was launched by police in 2014 to tackle suspected money laundering committed by a group of men between August 2012 and April 2014.
Nineteen different bank accounts in a number of different names were used to deposit and withdraw the fraudulently obtained money, all orchestrated by 33-year-old Peterborough ‘middle man’, Ali Amjad.
Amjad was found to have more than 20 bank cards in his possession; five of which were in his car, and the others all at his home, along with more than £15,000 in cash which was found stored under a bed.
In interview, Amjad stated that all of the people named on the cards were friends of his and he had their full permission to be in possession of their cards.
He said three men; Matthew Harvey, Spencer Smith and Carl Boreham gave him their cards to help raise money to prevent his mother losing her house, adding that they all offered to lend him money by giving him access to their accounts. He would then withdraw money and store it at his house, claiming he had no bank account.
After further investigation it was evident that Amjad was acting as a ‘middle-man’, recruiting others as willing money mules who provided him with details of their ‘clean’ bank accounts and fraudulently opened new bogus business accounts, allowing the monetary proceeds of various criminal activity to be passed through them in return for financial gain.
On close inspection of banking materials relating to accounts controlled by the defendants, about £1.1million of criminally obtained money was laundered.
The court heard various UK and overseas companies were defrauded.
The defendants would intercept communications between legitimate companies carrying out business transactions and redirect payments to their own bank accounts.
Once received, the criminal funds were quickly transferred to the defendants’ accounts, with some money being withdrawn in cash through ATMs or over the counter using chip and pin.
In a relatively short space of time, more than half a million pounds passed through Harvey’s nine accounts.
Harvey’s declared income over this period was about £15,000; hundreds of thousands of pounds less than the total that actually passed through his account.
Harvey, 36, of Chapel Court in St Ives, initially denied the charges against him, but later pleaded guilty at the start of his trial on March 2 this year (2016). He was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Two of the 19 accounts were held in the name of Smith, 36, of Mortimer Row in Somersham. He also initially denied any involvement in money laundering, but again, changed his plea at the start of the trial on March 2. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
One of the accounts was held in the name of 52-year-old Boreham, of Cranfield Place in Somersham, who pleaded guilty to facilitating the transfer of criminal property at a hearing at on February 25, 2016. He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 60 hours of unpaid work.
A fifth man, Domenico Izzo, 56, of no fixed address, was found guilty following a three-and-a-half week trial at Huntingdon Crown Court last month (March 22) and was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison at the same court on Friday (April 15).
The orchestrator of all this activity, Ali Amjad, of Taveners Road, was also found guilty following the same trial and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Two other men from Peterborough, Luca Agostini, 49, previously of Valley Park View and Cosimo Capriglione, 40, previously of Cecil Pacey Court, were both found not guilty and cleared of all charges following the trial last month (March).
Detective Constable Louise Spinks, from the Fraud and Cyber Investigation Unit (FCIU), said: “This was a very long and complex investigation which has resulted in five men being convicted for their criminal actions.
“After close examination of the circumstances of each defendant, the large sums of money going in and out of their bank accounts and their own financial situations, it was evident that the transactions originated from criminal activity, specifically sophisticated email fraud.
“I hope this investigation serves as a warning to others that we will track you down and we will put an end to your criminality. We have a team of specially trained officers who work tirelessly to bring such people to justice and we will recover your ill-gotten gains.”
All five defendants were sentenced at Huntingdon Crown Court on Friday (April 15). Confiscation proceedings against the five men have now commenced.
More information about cybercrime and fraud can be found on the constabulary website here.