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Organised crime group given combined 18-year prison sentence for Hampshire scams

Eight people from Hampshire have been jailed for a combined 18 years and 2 months for their role in a phone and email scam that exploited 2,000 BT customers.

It follows officers from Hampshire Constabulary's Economic Crime Unit launching an investigation, which lasted over two years and identified losses of £358,345.

The offenders infiltrated BT customers' accounts between May 2014 and June 2016 and gained access to their bank details and personal information, after diverting their phone lines and emails.

Transactions were then carried out online, mostly via PayPal, which were delivered to addresses linked to or owned by the offenders.

A number of high-value good were purchased with the money, including Rolex and Breitling watches, Versace clothes, jewellery, furniture and televisions.

(Some of the items bought by members of the gang. Picture credits: Hampshire Police)

Many of the bought goods were delivered to the home addresses of five of the offenders, Charles Onwu, Victor Ngo, Pinelopi Chatzikonstantinou, Chloe Maylott and Adel Qadir.

BT carried out enquiries into the fraudulent activity and found the suspects had links to Hampshire, despite it appearing to be a national issue.

The people charged and sentenced are listed as follows;

  • Festus Emosivwe, aged 36 years, of Newcome Road in Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 6 December 2019. Sentence: 44 months.
  • Chloe Maylott, aged 27 years, of Purbrook Way, Havant, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 6 December 2019. Sentence: 16 months.
  • Charles Onwu, aged 31 years, of Wells Close, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 16 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January. Sentence: 43 months.
  • Victor Ngo, aged 30 years, of Lowestoft Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He pleaded guilty on 16 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January. Sentence: 43 months.
  • Pinelopi Chatzikonstantinou, aged 30 years, formerly of Highlands Road, Southsea, charged with conspiracy to convert criminal property, and pleaded guilty on 20 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January. Sentence: £1,000 fine and £100 victim surcharge.
  • Adel Qadir, aged 35 years, of Woofferton Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020. Sentence: 29 months.
  • Molade Fasuyi, aged 37 years, of Methuen Road, Southsea, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on the 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020. Sentence: 2 years.
  • Olukayode Adepoju, aged 40 years, of London Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020. Sentence: 19 months.

PSI Stephen Murden, from the Economic Crime Unit, said:

“With the assistance of data from PayPal our investigation was able to link fraudulent orders and deliveries to some of the defendants’ addresses.

"We obtained evidence from BT customers, retailers and from phones and computers seized during the initial investigation.

"Analysis of the devices seized together with the other evidence obtained enabled us to bring the case to court.

“We determined that PayPal saw a loss of £205,000, and customers and merchants lost £87,000.

"However, we believe the true extent of the fraud was not restricted to PayPal or the addresses identified and the overall gain to some of the defendants was likely to be much higher than the amounts identified.

“The information we gathered proved that there was sufficient evidence to bring all eight defendants to court for charges of conspiracy in relation to this sophisticated scam.

"I am pleased that the hard work that went into this lengthy, complex investigation resulted in all eight individuals pleading guilty.”

A BT spokesperson said:

“BT takes the security of its customers’ accounts very seriously and we proactively warn customers to be on their guard against scams.

"Fraudsters use various methods to obtain personal or financial details with the ultimate aim of stealing from you.

“In order to protect our customers, we constantly monitor our networks for signs of potentially malicious activity.

"In this particular case, through detailed analysis of call divert data, our security team became concerned that some BT customers may have unknowingly revealed their personal account details to fraudsters.

"A thorough investigation was launched and our findings were passed on to Hampshire Police.

"We have supported the police with their investigations and are pleased that this has now helped result in the sentencing of eight people with respect to this crime.

“As well as assisting the police, we have also provided support, advice and reassurance to our customers who were the victims of this criminal gang.”

Hampshire Police are advising people to always delete spam emails and to never give personal or financial details to anyone unless they know and trust them.

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