Jailed: Stratford man who helped launder £250k for 'smishing' crime gang
- Credit: MPS
A man from Stratford who laundered money for an organised crime gang which conned victims out of millions has been jailed.
Quin Huang, who lives in Prospect Row, was sentenced along with accomplice Clarke Morgan-Findlay from Lewisham at Inner London Crown Court on Thursday, March 11.
The pair used money conned from victims of "smishing" frauds to buy designer handbags and jewellery at high-end stores in Oxford Street and Knightsbridge which they sent on to the gang.
The convictions are part of a wider Met investigation into an organised crime network behind frauds which have been carried out across the UK.
The losses for two major UK banks are estimated to be in the region of £20-£30million.
"Smishing" is where scammers target people and companies with text messages aimed at persuading them to share their bank account details.
In most cases, the victim receives a message appearing to be from their bank requesting a call about an unusual payment.
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The fraudulent message usually appears on the victim’s mobile phone in the same thread as genuine texts received from their bank, deceiving them into thinking it is legitimate.
But the number given in the messages is fake and puts the victim through to fraudsters posing as bank workers who take the details needed to access their bank account.
The victim's money is then transferred out of their account by criminals into "mule" bank accounts set-up for the purpose.
The money is then laundered, in a process known as "cashing out", which was where Huang, 37, and Morgan-Findlay's shopping trips came in.
The mule accounts were also set up in the names of people recruited by Morgan-Findlay, 27, via social media.
After the laundering was complete, Morgan-Findlay would brag to contacts, sending them videos and screenshots of the mule account showing the stolen proceeds.
The defendants’ mobile phones had thousands of messages relating to their offences as well as photographs, screenshots and videos of mule bank accounts and bank cards. The pair are believed by police to have committed hundreds of offences.
However, the prosecution was limited to 15 totalling more than £250,000 in losses.
The Met launched its investigation after officers were alerted by the Cyber Defence Alliance to a Facebook account aimed at luring in money mules.
Videos and photographs were posted on the account linked to Morgan-Findley requesting the types of accounts he wanted.
In one video, Morgan-Findlay is seen wearing a Cartier watch with a black strap. During another communication, he gave a mobile number that he could be contacted on.
Morgan-Findlay was arrested in April 2018 by officers who recovered mobile phones and items including a Cartier watch identical to one in a Facebook video.
Huang was arrested at home on suspicion of money laundering in June.
Officers seized £107,325, designer handbags and watches. At first Huang denied any involvement before changing his story to say he had been threatened into doing it.
Det Con Ray Black said: "This has been a long and complex investigation, which saw officers working around the clock for more than two and a half years to bring Huang and Morgan-Findlay to justice.
"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.
"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."
Huang pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at Inner London Crown Court on August 21 and to a further count of money laundering and count of bribery at the same court on January 28.
Morgan-Findlay pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering at Inner London Crown Court on September 4.
Huang was sentenced to five years and six months in prison while Morgan-Findlay was sentenced to two years and six months behind bars.