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Five men sentenced for helping launder over £1.2 million stolen from victims through bank accounts they’d opened

- The five men opened bank accounts to launder money received from victims
- Victims thought they were investing in gold or broadcast airtime, which would be sold on for a profit
- City of London Police’s Fraud Squad investigated the case after a referral from BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme

On Thursday (1 February 2018), five men were sentenced at Luton Crown Court after they were found guilty of facilitating the operations of four boiler rooms by opening bank accounts for fake businesses to launder a total of £1,249,309 stolen from victims who thought they were investing in gold or broadcast airtime.

Following an investigation by the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, they were all found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud. Details of each of their sentences and the amount of victim’s money they laundered through the bank accounts they’d set up are listed below:

Jamie Wilkinson, 28, of  Maplestead Road, Dagenham, £437,923.46 - two years and six months imprisonment. 
Jordan Spruce, 27, of Bute Brae, Milton Keynes, £282,495 - 20 months imprisonment. 
Kyle Welch, 31, of Luton Road, Luton, £160,834 - 18 months imprisonment. 
Steven Addo, 42, of Abington Grove, Northampton, £365,000 - 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 15 months, a three months curfew 10pm to 7am and 200 hours unpaid work.
Daniel Silver, 27, of Forfar Drive, Milton Keynes, £3,057 - 12 month community order of 100 hours.

The offences committed by the men occurred between May 2013 and January 2014, and the four boiler rooms associated with the accounts were under the names of Denmore Ltd, Simply Airtime, S+E Future and Vodacell.

Case referred to the Fraud Squad

The fraud was initially brought to light by a journalist from BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme who commenced her own investigation into Denmore Ltd, after being cold called. The journalist referred the case to the City of London Police, and its Fraud Squad opened an investigation.

It is believed that the boiler rooms targeted around 180 victims in total and were mainly elderly people. They cold called them using personal data they’d acquired from other criminals, and also data they’d purchased from companies who hold customers’ personal details.

Most of the victims were contacted via cold calling, but around 20 were introduced by an independent financial advisor. No additional evidence was obtained to suggest this person was complicit in the fraud - they were treated as a witness in the case and provided a statement.

How the money was laundered

The victims believed they were investing in gold or broadcast airtime, which after being purchased would then be sold on for a profit. They were told that this profit, along with their investment, was going to be paid back to them.

Each of the men had opened bank accounts for fake businesses and were the sole signatory. For example, Wilkinson opened a bank account for an alleged solar panel installation company, while Welch opened an account for an alleged bespoke furniture company.

Once the men had opened these bank accounts and the victims had paid into them, the monies were eventually withdrawn in cash or transferred overseas.

Investigation links back to Paul Ward

The Fraud Squad investigated where this money was being sent to overseas and this led them to Paul Ward. They found out that he was in charge of the boiler room operation during the time when the men committed the money laundering offences.

Through various banking evidence, it was discovered that a substantial part of the funds were being sent overseas to Ward. He lived in Northern Cyprus at the time, but was repatriated to the UK under a European Arrest Warrant and in 2016 was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Addo, Welch, Spruce and Silver were arrested at their homes on 3 September 2014 following a search warrant. Wilkinson, who wasn’t at his home at the time, attended a voluntary interview at a later date and was also arrested.

The City of London Police's Asset Recovery Team has now commenced confiscation proceedings into all five defendants to ensure those involved do not benefit from the proceeds of crime.

Detective Constable Barry Ryan, who led the investigation for the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, said:

“Thanks to the endeavour and hard work of the journalist from the BBC, who initially brought this case to our attention, officers in the Fraud Squad were able to uncover the full extent of this fraud and ensure justice was served. Not only had a number of boiler rooms been set-up, but there was an extensive money laundering network in place.

“These unsuspecting victims lost thousands of pounds after being tricked into thinking they were making legitimate investments. It’s vital that people are aware of investment fraud and never take up offers of investments on the spot from cold calls. We have a lot of advice for the public on our website on how to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud.

“This should act as a warning to any other people who are thinking of allowing their account to be used for criminal activity in order to make some extra money – money laundering is a serious offence and one which could see you go to jail.”

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