Eight people from Hampshire sentenced for complex phone and email fraud
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An organised crime group have been jailed for a combined total of 18 years and 2 months after gaining access to as many as 2,000 BT customers’ accounts in an elaborate phone and email divert scam.
Officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit launched a complex investigation which spanned more than two years of offending and identified £358,345 in losses – but the full extent of the fraud is expected to be much higher.
The following people were charged as part of this investigation:
- Festus Emosivwe, aged 36 years, of Newcome Road in Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 6 December 2019.
- Chloe Maylott, aged 27 years, of Purbrook Way, Havant, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 6 December 2019.
- Charles Onwu, aged 31 years, of Wells Close, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 16 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January.
- Victor Ngo, aged 30 years, of Lowestoft Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to convert criminal property. He pleaded guilty on 16 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January.
- Pinelopi Chatzikonstantinou, aged 30 years, formerly of Highlands Road, Southsea, charged with conspiracy to convert criminal property, and pleaded guilty on 20 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January.
- Adel Qadir, aged 35 years, of Woofferton Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020.
- Molade Fasuyi, aged 37 years, of Methuen Road, Southsea, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on the 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020.
- Olukayode Adepoju, aged 40 years, of London Road, Portsmouth, charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and pleaded guilty on 17 January 2020 during a trial which commenced on 15 January 2020.
Between May 2014 and June 2016, the defendants managed to infiltrate BT customers’ accounts, before placing a call divert on their phone lines, or in some cases diverting emails, meaning the offenders could obtain their bank details and other personal information.
This information was then used to make transactions online, in most cases via PayPal, for delivery to addresses linked to, or controlled by, the defendants, or for collection.
The defendants spoiled themselves with fraudulently purchased Rolex and Breitling watches, Versace clothes, jewellery, furniture and televisions.
Many of the goods purchased were delivered to the home addresses of Onwu, Ngo, Chatzikonstantinou, Maylott and Qadir.
Enquiries carried out by BT uncovered that although it appeared to be a national issue, the suspects had links to Hampshire, at which point our specialist team became involved.
PSI Stephen Murden, from the Economic Crime Unit, said: “With the assistance of data from PayPal our investigation was able to link fraudulent orders and deliveries to some of the defendants’ addresses. We obtained evidence from BT customers, retailers and from phones and computers seized during the initial investigation. Analysis of the devices seized together with the other evidence obtained enabled us to bring the case to court.
“We determined that PayPal saw a loss of £205,000, and customers and merchants lost £87,000. However, we believe the true extent of the fraud was not restricted to PayPal or the addresses identified and the overall gain to some of the defendants was likely to be much higher than the amounts identified.
“The information we gathered proved that there was sufficient evidence to bring all eight defendants to court for charges of conspiracy in relation to this sophisticated scam. I am pleased that the hard work that went into this lengthy, complex investigation resulted in all eight individuals pleading guilty.”
A BT spokesperson said: “BT takes the security of its customers’ accounts very seriously and we proactively warn customers to be on their guard against scams. Fraudsters use various methods to obtain personal or financial details with the ultimate aim of stealing from you.
“In order to protect our customers, we constantly monitor our networks for signs of potentially malicious activity. In this particular case, through detailed analysis of call divert data, our security team became concerned that some BT customers may have unknowingly revealed their personal account details to fraudsters. A thorough investigation was launched and our findings were passed on to Hampshire Police. We have supported the police with their investigations and are pleased that this has now helped result in the sentencing of eight people with respect to this crime.
“As well as assisting the police, we have also provided support, advice and reassurance to our customers who were the victims of this criminal gang.”
The defendants were sentenced as follows:
- Festus Emosivwe jailed for 44 months
- Charles Onwu jailed for 43 months
- Chloe Maylott jailed for 16 months
- Victor Ngo jailed for 43 months
- Pinelopi Chatzikonstantinou handed a £1,000 fine and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge
- Adel Qadir jailed for 29 months
- Molade Fasuyi jailed for 2 years
- Olukayode Adepoju jailed for 19 months
We hope this case raises awareness of the risks people face online, and acts as a reminder to people to only open emails from people they trust.
Scammers defraud people using spam emails. Simply delete the email without opening or replying to it, otherwise the scammer will send you more and more emails from lots of different addresses.
Any email you get from someone you don’t know is likely to be spam, especially if it’s not addressed to you personally and promises you some kind of gain.
If you get an email with an attachment, apparently from someone you know, but it’s not the usual sort of message you get from them, don’t open the attachment. Contact the person who’s supposed to have sent it and confirm it’s genuine. The email may have been infected with a virus and forwarded through their address book.
There are lots of ways scammers gain personal or financial information from their victims, such as:
- phishing, where an email that seems to be from a legitimate company asks you to give your personal details
- vishing, where either an automated phone message or a cold-caller who seems to be from a legitimate company asks you for personal details
- spear phishing, which focuses on an individual or department in an organisation; the email appears to come from a legitimate organisation
Using these methods, scammers ask for information such as login details and passwords, or install malware on your computer.
As a general rule, never give your personal or financial details to anyone unless you know and trust them.
There is a wealth of information relating to online fraud and cyber crime on our website. Simply visit: https://www.hampshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/online-fraud/
Further information is also available on the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) website: https://serocu.police.uk/phishing/