Trio living in Peterborough defrauded vulnerable Slovakians out of tens of thousands of pounds

Two vulnerable Slovakian men were defrauded out of tens of thousands of pounds with their wages kept in bank accounts they had no access to, a court heard.

Thursday, 25th April 2019, 5:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th April 2019, 5:18 pm

Ondrej Lakatos (54) his daughter Helena Lakatosova (35) and her partner Marian Herak (29) – all of Huntly Grove in Park ward - defrauded victims after using bank cards in their names.

The first victim was approached after losing his job in Slovakia in February 2008. He was offered work in the UK and flew there the same month, meeting Lakatos at the airport.

He was driven to a recruitment agency where a family member registered him, and was then taken to Lakatos’ home to live.

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He earned £250 a week but was paid just £20 in ‘pocket money’ and was promised the rest of the money would be put into a bank account for when he returned home.

Lakatos signed the man up for a bank account, but kept the card and controlled his money.

The man told Lakatos he was not enjoying his work so a month later he was registered at a different recruitment agency.

He worked for the agency until returning to Slovakia in May 2009. Lakatos gave the man just £280 and told him he would have to return to the UK again to get the rest.

The victim did so and came back to work at the same agency a month later but the same exploitation of his wages continued.

In March 2010, the victim told Lakatos he was fed up and going home to Slovakia.

Lakatos gave him his bank card, £240 and told him to look for his partner in Slovakia who would give him his money – but this never happened.

The victim told police he did not report Lakatos as he felt he had no proof and was scared of the consequences. Lakatos defrauded the man out of £12,328, the court heard.

In June 2015 police visited Lakatos’ Peterborough home to check on the welfare of those living there.

Lakatos’ second victim was living at the address. He told police Lakatos had opened a bank account in his name and had used it to book flights totalling £1,486.

Lakatos also defrauded the man out of £5,695 by using his bank account abroad while the man was working in the UK.

A Wonga loan payment of £260 was also made into his account and £280 was withdrawn in Slovakia – again while the man was working in the UK.

During the visit to Lakatos’ home, police found HMRC paperwork relating to benefits claimed in the name of the man, who has since passed away.

During a search warrant carried out in Huntley Grove in April 2015, police found a bank statement and a debt recovery letter addressed to the same man.

At the house – which was the home address of Lakatosova and Herak – police also found a green suitcase containing financial paperwork in both of their names.

Bank statements relating to the victim were found in the suitcase with Herak and Lakatosova’s fingerprints on them.

Herak and Lakatosova were arrested and interviewed but denied all offences against them.

The day after police attended the home of Lakatos (in June 2015) he left the UK before he could be arrested or interviewed.

A European Arrest Warrant was subsequently issued and Lakatos was arrested in Slovakia on August 2, 2018. He was not interviewed in the UK, but denied all offences against him.

All three defendants stood trial at Peterborough Crown Court from April 8.

Today (Thursday) Lakatos was found guilty of three charges of fraud by false representation, while Lakatosova and Herak were found guilty of one count of fraud.

They were bailed for pre-sentence reports to be carried out and will be sentenced at the same court on May 17.

Detective Constable Chris Goodman, who investigated the case as part of a dedicated investigation team, said: “The vulnerable victims in this case were taken advantage of by the defendants, who were people they thought they could trust.

“Herak, Lakatos and Lakatosova benefitted directly from their hard work and clearly disregarded providing them with what was rightfully theirs.

“We are determined to protect vulnerable people in our communities and wherever possible prosecute those who seek to take advantage of them.

“We would strongly urge anyone who has been exploited to get in touch with us.”