Members of organised criminal gang jailed for more than 14 years for frauds totalling £857,000
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Members of an organised criminal group (OCG) which committed high value frauds have been jailed for a total of 14 years and 7 months.
Gang leader Sebahattin Yildirim, 54, formerly of Inverness Mews, London, E16, who is referred to as ‘Uncle’ by the gang, facilitated a number of frauds. He was found guilty of three charges of conspiracy to defraud and possession of articles for use in fraud.
Yildirim was sentenced to nine years imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court on Friday 25 November 2022 following two lengthy trials.
Throughout two trials, the court was told how Yildirim was the key player in a series of frauds and the subsequent laundering of the proceeds. A number of others were also convicted for their involvement in the high value plots.
David Price, 36, of Jackson Road, London, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to three years and two months imprisonment.
Alexander Jefferson, 63, of Thimble Drive, Sutton Coldfield, was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and sentenced to two years and five months imprisonment.
Taskin Asutay, 35, of Avenell Road, Islington, London, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Mohammed Riaz, 39, of no fixed address, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Jarrar Shah, 26, of Khartoum Road, Ilford, Essex, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to one year and four months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Maxwell James, 64, of Larch Close, High Wycombe, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and was convicted of possessing articles for use in fraud. He was sentenced in December 2020 to a total of 16 months imprisonment.
Detective Sergeant Steve Weller, from the City of London Police, said:
“This was a lengthy and complex investigation into numerous overlapping organised crime groups, of which Sebahattin Yildirim was the leader.
“Yildirim was convicted of conspiring to defraud £857,000, of which £560,000 was successfully transferred to accounts controlled by the crime group. Yildirim also had two mobile phones which contained many images of compromised high value bank accounts, which the jury agreed were in his possession for fraudulent purposes.
“The City of London Police is committed to protecting the UK from the threat of economic crime. The success of this operation shows that police will use all necessary tactics to target organised crime and those participating in corruption, fraud and money laundering. These convictions also send a message to those who abuse their position of trust within the financial sector: you will be targeted and held to account.”
In the first trial, the court heard that Yildirim received a Whatsapp message from a person in Italy, containing an image of a blank cheque. Yildirim and Taskin Asutay conspired to find a bank account into which they could “pour” the cheque.
The cheque was printed to the value of £185,000 and provided to Mohammed Riaz, before Jarrah Shah was witnessed on CCTV paying the money into a business account. Shah then transferred £54,000 to a business account associated with Riaz.
Days later the cheque bounced, causing Yildirim, Asutay, Shah and Riaz to attend the bank branch at the Stratford Centre, London. CCTV and testimony from police surveillance officers showed the group congregate in the vicinity of the bank.
During this trial, Yildirim was also convicted of possessing articles of use in fraud, namely two mobile phone handsets containing multiple images of compromised bank details.
In the second of the two trials, the court heard that Maxwell James pretended to be the victim by using a fake passport to change their banking information in order to gain access to their account. He made a fraudulent payment of £375,000, which was later sent to an account controlled by Alexander Jefferson. Jefferson subsequently converted £300,000 into gold bullion.
Yildirim coordinated this conspiracy and copies of the victim’s identification were found at his home address.
In a further offence, on 5th October 2017, Yildirim met David Price, who at the time was a branch employee at a bank. The following day, Price was working at the bank when Yildirim visited the branch. Minutes later, a transfer of £297,000 was attempted from the victim’s account.
The bank’s fraud prevention systems stopped Price from completing this transaction. Price stated to the court that he was innocent and had “stopped” the fraud, but evidence showed to the contrary. A voice note recovered from Price’s phone explained his role in the proposed offence.