Stamp duty fraudster jailed after stealing £380,000
Manpreet Singh (formerly Munpreet Singh Virdee) of Orchard Avenue, Hounslow in West London filed 52 fraudulent Stamp Duty Land Tax returns between November 2010 and July 2015.
Singh, owner and director of Reemans Solicitors, stole £380,000 in stamp duty by submitting incorrect information to HMRC. By reducing the amount of tax due, but charging his clients the full correct amount, he was able to pocket the difference.
The 50-year old continued to submit false documents even after HMRC began investigating his tax affairs in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing.
Linda Hamilton, deputy director, fraud investigation service at HMRC, said: “This was a deliberate and sustained attack on the tax system. Singh worked in a position of trust and thought it was acceptable to con his clients and steal taxpayers’ money which should be used to fund our vital public services.
“HMRC will continue to pursue the small minority, like Singh, who think fraud is an acceptable way to do business.”
Singh admitted cheating HMRC at Isleworth Crown Court on 6 July and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
He has repaid around £253,000 of the stolen stamp duty. Proceedings are ongoing to recover the remaining amount.
Fraudsters target Paragon Bank in latest clone attack
The bank spotted a clone of its website in early October and contacted the domain provider to have the site taken down. It is not aware of any consumers who suffered financial loss.
The fraudsters planned to convince savers, who thought they were dealing with Paragon, to send money to them instead.
They used the email ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and several 0800 telephone numbers. The real email address is email@example.com and Paragon’s contact numbers are 0345 8494003 and 0121 712 6749.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning to alert the public that fraudsters are using a mixture of genuine and fake details to attempt to scam households.
A spokesperson for Paragon said: “We continuously monitor for cloned website activity and immediately take action when we identify fraudulent sites.
“Protecting our customers is of paramount importance to us and we urge vigilance against unsolicited emails or calls directing people towards websites. We always advise consumers to visit paragonbank.co.uk or to call the numbers listed on the website to ensure they are genuinely dealing with us.”
Analysis by the Mail on Sunday revealed that in June there 56 FCA warnings about clone fraud, a 65 per cent year-on-year rise. Furthermore, the number of warnings was four times higher than in June 2017.
Last month, Shawbrook Bank and Castle Trust were both targeted by fraudsters running similar scams.
Shawbrook was alerted to the scam by a member of the public who had transferred money to the company after receiving an email. They were not an existing customer of Shawbrook. The bank notified the FCA.
A fake company used a phishing scam to target individuals by sending false adverts and promises of fixed rate returns on Shawbrook bonds to their email addresses.
Castle Trust, which is waiting for its banking licence to be granted, identified a clone website called Castle Trust Private Bank through routine checks. The scammers were thought to be based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Scammers also targeted Aldermore Bank in August by setting up a website called www.aldermoreibank.com.
Fraudsters use fake Shawbrook Bank promotion to target families
A notice from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been issued to warn members of the public that a so-called clone firm is posing as Shawbrook Bank Limited.
The fraudsters are using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and a Brentwood telephone number to trick members of the public they are phoning the genuine bank, which is also based in Brentwood.
The fake company is using a phishing scam to target individuals by sending false adverts and promises of fixed rate returns on bonds to their email addresses.
Shawbrook was alerted to the scam a month ago by a member of the public who had transferred money to the company after receiving an email. They were not an existing customer of Shawbrook. The bank notified the FCA.
This clone firm is not authorised or registered by the FCA but claims to have authorisation.
Clone firms, according to the FCA’s website, usually cold call members of the public using the name of the genuine firm, the firm reference number given by the FCA and other details. Fraudsters often give out a mixture of false and genuine details.
Anyone concerned they have been contacted by firm posing to be an authorised financial company can visit the FCA’s website.
If a firm does not appear on the register but claims it does, consumers should contact the FCA’s helpline on 0800 111 6768.
There is a separate helpline, 0300 500 0597, for firms that think they have been cloned.
Principality BS manager forged letters to steal £180,000
According to a Metro report, Free used her position as a building society boss to steal more than £180,000 over a period of ten years and share out money to family members.
Free, of Whitchurch, Cardiff, admitted theft by an employee at Cardiff Crown Court.
Free had worked at the mutual for 23 years. But she asked junior staff to move money into her own account, telling them it was her ‘bonus’.
The theft was uncovered when a deceased customer’s son noticed that the account had been closed and that £9,170 was missing.
Uncovering the crime
Prosecutor Alison O’Shea said: “Senior managers at Principality Building Society became aware of Free’s actions when they received a complaint from the son of a deceased gentleman.”
In total, Free moved a total of £187,170.63 in 149 transactions, using bank transfers and paying in cheques.
Kevin Seal, defending, said: “One cannot imagine a greater fall from grace. She was highly thought of at Principality Building Society and was promoted because of her industry in that profession.”
Judge Eleri Rees told her: “It is astonishing to find you in the dock after living most of your life caring for your family and working for 23 years at a building society.”
Principality Building Society is the largest building society in Wales and the sixth largest in the United Kingdom.
Fake mortgage adviser who stole more than £100,000 is jailed
Johnson Umax met the women, who were all nurses, through online dating websites and pretended to be a mortgage adviser, according to the Braintree and Witham Times.
He struck up relationships with them before borrowing their money on the understanding that he would also help them to secure mortgages.
The first victim loaned him more than £30,000 after becoming involved with him in February 2013. The second woman handed over £40,054 after starting a relationship in November 2013. His third conquest gave him more than £40,000 between July 2014 and August 2015.
Umax denied three charges of fraud by false representation but was found guilty by jury in April.
He was sentenced to three years and nine months today (24th May 2019).
“Johnson Umax manipulated his victims and showed no remorse for stealing their life savings. His calculated and heartless actions have had a devastating emotional and financial impact on these hard-working nurses,” said detective constable Chris Sedgwick.
Mortgage fraudster struck off social work register for £228k scam
Anita Henderson, formerly a social worker at Sunderland City Council, admitted to lying on three mortgage applications – at one point claiming to have income almost £100,000 higher than her actual income.
Henderson obtained the three mortgages from building societies between 2006 and 2008 but the frauds were not revealed until almost a decade later when criminal proceedings were initiated.
According to the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), Henderson’s first fraudulent application claimed a net profit of just over £33,000, when her real income was in fact just £9,000, to which the building society advanced £68,000.
The second mortgage of £97,000 was advanced against declared income for two years of £77,000, again for the purpose of buying a property, when her income was in fact just £66,466.
The third mortgage of £63,000 was borrowed against a property owned by Henderson where she declared income of £101,592 when her real income was just £3,000.
It was stated this advance had been given to a third party.
Henderson was newly qualified and started working at Sunderland City Council in January 2017.
She reported herself to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in April 2017, but an investigation by the HCPC found that she had known about the charges in 2016.
Henderson’s criminal case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court in September 2017, where she pleaded guilty to three charges, with a fourth charge to lie on the file, and was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for six months.
The fraud totalled £228,198.35 but no money has been lost by the lenders.
Henderson chose not to respond to the HCPC investigation and did not attend the tribunal hearing.
In permanently excluding Henderson from the social work register, the tribunal panel said it was disappointed she had not engaged with it or shown remorse.
It also suggested there may have been personal factors affecting her life – although it could not corroborate this.
The panel added that any sanction should act as a deterrent to others intending to act in the same way.
“Whilst these matters arose from actions outside of the registrant’s professional duties, they would seriously impact on her profession’s reputation and would have undermined the public’s confidence in the profession,” the panel said.
It concluded that “the matters were so serious, and so fundamentally at variance with the registrant remaining a member of her profession”, that the only option was a permanent ban.
FCA warns on cloning of AMAC Mortgages
The clone firm uses AMAC Mortgages Limited’s name, but is not authorised or registered with the FCA. It has been targeting people in the UK, claiming to be an authorised firm.
The details the clone uses are: AMAC Mortgages & Loan Ltd , address: 9 Charlotte Dr, Gosport, London, PO12 4GS, United Kingdom (this was a previous trading address belonging to the FCA authorised firm).
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and website: www.amacmtgltd.com. Be aware that the scammers may give out other false details or mix these with some correct details of the registered firm.
This is what the FCA calls a ‘clone firm’; and fraudsters usually use this tactic when contacting people out of the blue, so the regulator warns that you should be especially wary if you have been cold called.
They may use the name of the genuine firm, the ‘firm reference number’ (FRN) that FCA has given the authorised firm, or other details.
AMAC Mortgages Limited , the FCA authorised firm that fraudsters are claiming to work for, has no association with the so called clone firm.
It is authorised to offer, promote or sell services or products in the UK and its correct details are:
Firm Reference Number: 302881, address: Hills Barns, Unit G, Appledram Lane South, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 7EG.
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
FCA advises you to only deal with financial firms that are authorised by the regulator, and to check the Financial Services Register to ensure they are.
£1.25m mortgage fraudster who implicated himself jailed for more than five years
Abid Hussain (pictured) from Kilburn in London defrauded a property company and a mortgage lender out of more than £1.25m.
Despite protesting otherwise, CCTV footage heavily implicated Hussain in the property fraud and the purchase of 15kg of gold bullion worth around £438,000, which has yet to be recovered.
His scam was revealed in the summer of 2016 after he reported being the victim of a property fraud as a property he owned in North Acton was sold for £480,000.
The Metropolitan Police’s Fraud and Linked Crime Online (FALCON) Unit begin investigating and established that Hussain had sold the property himself and that the funds he received were from the company buying the premises.
Hussain also reported that more than £770,000 had been paid into his current account apparently from the remortgage of another property he owned.
He denied making the mortgage application and said the account into which the proceeds of the sale were deposited did not belong to him, despite his name being on the account.
Hussain provided a false witness statement to police, intending to void the supposed fraudulent transaction and leaving the property company and mortgage lender out of pocket.
However, CCTV captured him entering the offices of a central London solicitors to complete the mortgage application.
He travelled to Pakistan in the days after purchasing the bullion and is believed to have taken it with him.
Hussain was convicted at Southwark Crown Court on 14 August of two counts of fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Police said enquiries to establish what happened to the bullion and what he bought it for are ongoing and added that all the funds were returned to the mortgage company.
Police are now conducting an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) to recover all the proceeds of the frauds committed by Hussain.
Detective Constable Richard Kirk of the Metropolitan Police’s Complex Fraud Squad said: “A swift investigation has ensured that Hussain will now have time to reflect on what he has done in prison.
“Evidence showed that Hussain had meticulously planned these frauds for some time. We are pleased to see he has received a custodial sentence that reflects the seriousness of his offences.”
Spiritualist faith healer and mortgage fraud gang ordered to repay £4.3m
Mehboob Akhtar, also known as Saint Pir Pandariman, 61, ran the Muslim charity the Darbar Unique Centre, in Stoke on Trent.
Akhtar was sentenced to 14 years in jail in April last year. His wife Kadija Akhtar, also part of the fraud, received a prison sentence. He was convicted of cheating HMRC out of tax owed, and eight counts of conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud and committing mortgage fraud.
The cleric operated with nine other family members and business associates, who were all found guilty of lying to mortgage lenders to buy property in the Fenton area.
Akhtar and his wife Khajida both exaggerated their income on mortgage applications.
The Birmingham Mail reported how it was initially thought the total benefit of the fraud was £4.4m, however, after a proceeds of crime investigation, Birmingham Crown Court heard the gang made away with close to £15.6m.
The court heard how the sums the gang were ordered to repay, were based on the funds they were found to have available.
Akhtar benefited from fraud worth £5.5m and was ordered to pay back £1,863,504.
The mastermind used the names of his wife, daughter and niece to apply for mortgages from 2005 to 2014.
In 2012, police uncovered forged documents and emails relating to the conspiracy at Akhtar’s home.
When sentencing him last April, Judge Stephen Eyre QC said: “(You used) the prestige and devotion of others to facilitate this offending.”
His sentence has been reduced to 11 years by the Court of Appeal in London.
Lloyds to compensate victims of HBOS banker corruption as FCA resumes probe – update
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also resumed its investigation into the extent of HBOS’ knowledge of senior bank employees’ corrupt behaviour which led to the ruin of small businesses to fund their lavish lifestyles.
The investigation into misconduct within the Reading-based impaired assets team of HBOS was put on hold in early 2013, when the FCA alerted Thames Valley Police of their findings and were asked to freeze their activity pending the outcome of police inquiry.
Lloyds Bank said that following the conclusion of the criminal trial, it would provide fair, swift and appropriate compensation for the victims.
Professor Russel Griggs was appointed as the Independent Customer Reviewer in consultation with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to review customer detriment.
The bank said that although the customer review was in its initial stages, to provide additional help to those impacted customers, it would:
- Provide interim payments on a case-by-case basis to assist victims in financial difficulty with day-to-day living costs;
- Cover reasonable fees for professional advice whilst in the Professor Griggs’ review to enable customers to access appropriate legal and financial advice;
- Write off customers’ remaining relevant business and personal debts currently owed to LBG, where they were victims of the criminal conduct, and not pursue them for any repayment.
It added that it had already suffered losses or provided for at least £250m of credit losses in relation to those impacted cases at HBOS Reading in previous financial periods and that it anticipated that compensation for economic losses, distress and inconvenience would be in the region of £100m.
Operation Hornet, the police investigation, resulted in the conviction of five men and one woman with combined prison sentences of 47 years and nine months.
Former HBOS senior banker Lynden Scourfield (pictured), 54, of Whitton Avenue West, Greenford, Middlesex, pleaded guilty on 12 August 2016 to charges of conspiracy to corrupt, fraudulent trading and money laundering. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on 2 February this year.
Scourfield was bribed to refer businesses to a consultancy firm headed up by David Mills, 60, of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire which claimed to help struggling firms out of of liquidation. In return, Scourfield received hundreds of thousands of pounds, holidays to Thailand and Barbados and parties involving prostitutes.
The business customers, already in financial turmoil, were advanced large sums of cash which they could not afford to repay, while Mills and his associates received significant fees for their services.
Mills was jailed for a total of 15 years.
Mills’ wife, Alison, 51, received three and a half years, while business associates Michael Bancroft, 73, and John Cartwright, 72, got 10 years and three and half years, respectively. Mark Dobson who also worked at HBOS and received kickbacks from Mills was imprisoned for four and a half years.
A statement from the FCA read: “The FCA’s investigation is focusing on the extent and nature of the knowledge of these matters within HBOS and its communications with the Financial Services Authority after the initial discovery of the misconduct.”