Fraud gang jailed who conned 100 victims out of £500,000 with fake online ads for goods
PUBLISHED: 10:10 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:10 26 July 2019
A gang of fraudsters who conned 100 victims out of more than £500,000 in just 12 months with fake ads for online goods and services have finally been jailed for a total of almost 16 years.
Alex Scurtu, a 29-year-old from Ladysmith Road in Canning Town, was one of the gang who admitted conspiracy to commit fraud and to launder money.
He got five years when he appeared in the dock at Harrow Crown Court on Wednesday, after pleading guilty last October.
In the dock with him was Gift Mangava, 41, from Swanley in Kent, the 'brains' behind the fraud who set up bank accounts using fake identity.
He was found guilty at a trial in June and was now jailed for six years and nine months.
Co-conspirator Adideji Atitebi, 28, from Tilbury in Essex, got four years after pleading guilty in November, while Darnel Morrison, 20, from Queensbury in north-west London, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a community order after pleading guilty in January.
Scotland Yard's 'Falcon' organised crime unit launched an investigation after discovering that Mangava had opened several bank accounts that were being used to 'launder' cash.
"Our investigation has exposed their criminal activities," Sgt James Tipple said. "These four used sophisticated means to con innocent people out of thousands of pounds for their own financial gain.
"I hope this sentencing is a deterrent to others involved in this type of criminal activity."
Victims would be duped into transferring funds into one of the set-up accounts after answering fake adverts online for non-existent goods and services.
Sometimes fraudsters would use specialist technology to change the 'sender' ID on text messages to seem as if they had been sent by a bank.
Victims would then be asked to provide personal information which would help the fraudsters get into their bank accounts and transfer money out.
Mangava was identified during an investigation into a larger network of fraudsters, some of whom have already been convicted.
He was arrested in east London in June last year at an address in Canning Town. Phone analysis linked him to Scurtu and the other two by identifying WhatsApp messages.
The four had swindled 100 victims out of almost £552,000 between May 2017 and May 2018.