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Pair who laundered thousands stolen from US businessman sentenced

  • Man and woman allowed their bank accounts to transfer stolen funds
  • US businessman based in Texas lost out on more than £9,000
  • City of London Police Cyber Crime Unit linked the funds to accounts of London pair

A man and woman found guilty of laundering thousands of pounds from an electronics company in America have been sentenced following a City of London Police investigation.

Maxwell George Purrman (52) of Burrard Road, east London, and Omowumi Rukayat Sadu (36), of Amersham Road, south London, were sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on Thursday (22 February 2018) for their part in the theft, which took place in 2015. 

The pair were found guilty of one count each of money laundering on Monday (19 February 2018) following a six-day trial at the same court.

The court heard how, in July 2015, a US businessman based in Dallas, Texas, received an expected email from a Swiss company requesting payment of €14,285 for parts that had been ordered. The man obliged but was given new bank details for an account in London, belonging to Maxwell Purrman, a domestic cleaner from Plaistow. 

When alerted, the City of London Police contacted Purrman’s bank, which confirmed that £9746.20 – at the time of transaction worth €14,285 – was received from the Texas-based company.

The same day, 4 August 2015, three transactions amounting to £9,470 then left Purrman’s account, including one payment of £7,000 to Ms Owunumi Sadu. An investigation of her bank records also found a series of high-value transactions carried out on the day the money was received.

Purrman and Sadu were arrested, separately, in February 2016. House searches uncovered bank statements going back several years for Purrman, and six journals belonging to Sadu which detailed almost daily transactions of conversions between Nigerian naira and British pounds.

Friend on the number 21 bus

Upon interview, Purrman denied money laundering and claimed that he received and transferred the money on behalf of a friend from Liberia, who he had recently bumped into on the number 21 bus. The friend told him he was now a businessman based in France, and Purrman found nothing suspicious when he asked to use Purrman’s bank account for business.

Sadu, who also denied money laundering, explained to detectives that she he ran a money transfer business between the UK and Nigeria, whilst at home looking after her four children. She also denied any knowledge of Purrman. 

Both individuals in this case are believed to have no involvement in the initial fraud beyond having transferred the funds obtained from it.

Detective Constable Michael O’Sullivan, from the City of London Police Cyber Crime Unit, said:

“Money laundering can be a complex matter, but these criminals greatly underestimated our ability to investigate these offences, using our expertise.

“At court, the jury found Purrman’s account was entirely implausible and the jury were able to see through the lies he created to distance himself from the fraudsters. Sadu claimed to have no knowledge that the funds going through her account were stolen but the jury agreed with the prosecution that she had knowingly turned a blind eye and allowed her account to be used for fraud.

“Within a day, the money had left UK jurisdiction and was not recovered, leaving this unsuspecting victim thousands of pounds out of pocket.

“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 with very real consequences. Before offering to do this for someone, you should have your suspicions.” 

Sentencing

Prior to trial, Sadu also pleaded guilty to one count of carrying out a regulated activity without authority, in relation to running an illegal money service bureau.

At court on Thursday, Purrmann received a community order with an unpaid work requirement of 200 hours, ordered to pay £300 costs and a £85 surcharge. Sadu was handed a six-month sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work, pay £300 costs, a £80 surcharge, and the judge ordered forfeiture of her phone and business ledgers.


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