Jailed: East Ham gang member involved in £10m online fraud
- Credit: Archant
An online fraudster has been jailed along with four accomplices following a £10 million con.
Satish Kotinadhuni of Skeffington Road, East Ham, acted as a so-called "mule" herder by sourcing hundreds of bank accounts from people prepared to sell them for a fee while knowing they would be used in a fraud, known as mule accounts.
The 44-year old Indian national was a member of a five-strong gang which used malware to steal email account log-in details belonging to businesses and individuals around the world.
The fraudsters scoured accounts for high value financial transactions then sent spoof emails, duping victims into paying funds into UK based mule bank accounts controlled by the gang.
They also conned victims out of thousands by selling investments in currency trading schemes that didn't exist.
Victims ranged from high profile people and organisations to individuals tricked into thinking they were paying their conveyancing solicitors during property transactions.
Officers identified 235 separate frauds totalling £9,218,522.76 committed between 2014 and 2019. A total of 100 mule accounts featured in the investigation.
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Det Cons Chris Collins, speaking after sentencing on Friday, February 28, said "I am very pleased with today's verdicts. This has been a long trial due to the defendants' refusal to accept their guilt despite overwhelming evidence.
"A common feature in this case was the use of mule bank accounts. I advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to by contacting the intended recipient by means other than email.
"Furthermore people should be aware that a genuine investment company would not use different private bank accounts in different names in a legitimate transaction."
The convictions and sentences follow a trial at Southwark Crown Court that started in October 2019 and ended on Thursday, February 27.
Kotinadhuni was sentenced at the same court to five years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and six years for conspiracy to convert criminal property to run concurrently.
Olumuyiwa Ogunduyile, 39, a Nigerian national of Pier Way, Greenwich, was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and seven and a half years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.
Alex Enyiagu, 50, a Nigerian national of Whitings Road, Barnet, was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and seven years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.
Mba Atuonwu, 48, a Nigerian national of Ayron Road, South Ockendon, was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and six years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.
Declan Nathaniel Bannerman, 27, a German born Ghanaian of Eden Road, Sevenoaks was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and four years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.
On arrest, ringleader Ogunduyile attempted to destroy evidence by shoving three iPhones in the washing machine. But officers recovered them and evidence from two handsets.
Enyiagu organised the removal of much of the UK funds by feeding the money through an informal foreign exchange scheme.
In the scheme, the fraudulent money was used to pay for vast quantities of goods being exported by legitimate companies to Nigeria who would in turn pay the fraudsters in that country, unwittingly believing they were dealing with Hawala agents.
Atuonwu also played the part of a Hawala foreign exchange agent, although he would facilitate the return of UK Sterling back to the UK from Nigeria for the benefit of the fraudsters.
Hawala is a traditional system of transferring money used in Arab countries and south Asia.
Bannerman was another mule herder, luring young people to offer their accounts up with the promise of easy money after contacting them on social media.
He also sold investments that did not exist. One victim lost £185,000 in a non-existent binary currency trading scheme. He had been duped into buying an £2,500 worth of currency.
However, he was re-targeted by the fraudsters over a year, losing £185,000 in life savings.