Stratford man pleads guilty to money laundering for crime network behind multi-million pound ‘smishing’ fraud
- Credit: Archant
A man from Stratford has been convicted of money laundering for an organised crime network which defrauded victims of millions of pounds through “smishing”.
Quin Huang, 36, of Prospect Row, pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at Inner London Crown Court on Friday, August 21.
His accomplice, Clarke Daniel Morgan-Findlay, 26, of Hunsdon Road, Lewisham, pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at the same court today (Friday, September 4).
Det Cons Ray Black, the investigating officer from the Met’s cyber crime unit, said: “Huang and Morgan-Findlay made their living off the misery of others.
“While there’s no evidence to suggest they directly defrauded the victims themselves, they clearly played a key role in this organised crime network.
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“Money laundering is often glamorised in popular media, and can be thought of as a victimless crime. However, every pound involved has been taken from an innocent member of the public and it has a significant impact on their lives.”
The convictions form part of an investigation into an organised crime network responsible for “smishing” fraud offences across the country.
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The method involves targetting people and companies with SMS text messages to persuade them to share bank account details.
In most cases, victims receive a text appearing to be from their bank requesting a call in relation to an unusual payment.
The fraudulent message usually appears on the victim’s mobile phone in the same message thread as genuine texts received from their bank, tricking them into thinking it is a legitimate message.
But the number the victim is asked to call is not a genuine one and puts them in direct contact with fraudsters posing as banking staff who take details needed to access their bank account.
Money is then transferred out of accounts by the criminals into “mule” accounts.
The money stolen from the victims then gets laundered, which is where Huang and Morgan-Findlay’s came in.
Cash was transferred into mule bank accounts set-up in the names of individuals recruited by Morgan-Findlay who were promised a cut of the ill gotten gains.
When the money went into those accounts, it was disposed of by Huang and Morgan-Findlay in a process known as “cashing out”.
Huang and Morgan-Findlay visited high-end stores, usually in Oxford Street and Knightsbridge, purchasing luxury items including designer handbags, jewellery and giftcards.
They would then send the goods to the crime network behind the smishing fraud.
Morgan-Findlay would even brag to contacts, sending videos and screenshots of the mule account displaying the stolen proceeds.
The defendants’ mobile phones had thousands of messages relating to the offences as well as photographs, screenshots and videos of mule accounts and bank cards.
The pair’s money laundering offences are believed to be numbered in the hundreds.
However, the prosecution was limited to a total of 15 offences of money laundering between July and October 2017 and August 2019 and January.
The Met caught the pair after officers were alerted to a Facebook account which appeared to be in use for the sole purpose of attracting money mules.
In a video posted on the account, the user is seen wearing a Cartier watch with a black strap. Police found the same timepiece during Morgan-Findlay’s arrest in April 2018.
Officers seized £107,325 in cash as well as designer handbags and watches when Huang was arrested at his home on suspicion of money laundering in June.
He initially denied any involvement before changing his story to say he had been threatened into doing it.
Officers re-arrested Morgan-Findlay at his home address on June 23 on suspicion of money laundering offences. He answered no comment to all questions put to him and was charged the same day.
Huang and Morgan-Findlay are due to be sentenced at Inner London Crown Court on September 28.
There is a separate investigation into the mule account holders, as well as the organised crime network sending the fraudulent SMS texts. Enquiries continue.
If you receive what you suspect to be a fraudulent message, delete it.