Hove Crown Court
NINE people have been sentenced for money laundering £620,000 duped from vulnerable and elderly victims in a scam.
The four women and five men allowed their bank accounts to be used by professional fraudsters, who tricked the elderly out of their live-savings, so the cheques could be passed through and withdrawn as cash.
At Hove Crown Court Judge Anthony Tain said the defendants knew they were laundering the proceeds of crime.
The court head 19 victims lost a total of £620,000 from Sussex, London, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Staffordshire, Sheffield, Rugby, Southsea, West Bromwich, Northampton and Middlesex.
The scams’ victims included including a man in his nineties from Portslade.
The professional fraudsters tricked them into handing over large sums of cash, sometimes their live savings, without any care for the impact on their vulnerable victims. The cheques were then deposited in the defendants’ bank accounts and then withdrawn by the criminal fraudsters at an ATM in cash so it was untraceable and irrecoverable.
The nine defendants received a modest amount left in their bank accounts as payment from the fraudsters.
The victims’ money has never been recovered. Phillip Montague, 61, laundered £101,000 from a victim in North London between October 13 and November 6, 2014.
Sentencing, Judge Tain said: “The trial led to the view Montague had the highest level of suspicion with regards to the transaction, and had allowed greed to motivate him.
“His level of suspicion must have at the very least bordered on knowledge of criminal activity and he was at least prepared to close his eyes when taking on a huge amount of money.”
Montague, of Basildon, was sentenced to 12 months in jail over money laundering offences.
Also jailed was road repairs supervisor Scott Watkins, 37, of Matlock Road, Coventry, who laundered a total of £140,000 from three victims. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
Birmingham University student Chantelle Hinton, 27, of Leamington Spa, laundered £,2,800 through her account, conned from a woman in Harrow. The aspiring social worker was spared a community order and given a conditional discharge allowing her to continue with her degree course.
Mother-of-four Victoria Abbot, 40, of Harlow, laundered £80,000 from a victim in North London. She received a 12-month sentence suspended for 18 months and 200 hours’ unpaid work.
Stuart Cooper, defending, said “she turned a blind eye” after finding herself in a halfway house with her kids.
Francis O’Rourke, 42, of Wolverhampton, received £9,500 from a victim in the West Bromwich area between December 12 and 19, 2014. He received a 90-day curfew.
Charlotte Morris was told to do unpaid work, along with Roseanna Sheridan and Kyle Wright, who were also given community orders. Paul Farn was given a conditional discharge.
The convictions came after South East Regional Organised Crime Unit conducted an investigation under Operation Kanteen involving 11 defendants pleading guilty to 49 offences.
Source: The Argus