Fraudsters posing as cops tricked ‘vulnerable’ people into handing over £700k

Five scammers who tricked elderly and vulnerable people into handing over more than £700,000 by posing as police officers have been locked up.

Fawaz Miah, 26, Fras Abdulkarim, 20, Abdul Olayinka, 19, Noor Sharif, 20, and Sahil Zaman, 22, all received jail sentences for being part of a conspiracy group which singled out “elderly and vulnerable” people.

Between late 2018 and and early 2019, a gang carried out the scam, known as courier fraud, in the North East of England, Chronicle Live reports.

Criminals would contact their victims via the phone pretending to be cops and claiming their bank savings were at risk.

The fraudsters then demanded that the victims visit their bank to withdraw large sums of cash, which they said would be collected by the ‘officers’ for fingerprinting. On other occasions, the victims were instructed to purchase high-value jewelery for the fake investigation.

The scam was uncovered by detectives from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU), with the support of other forces and agencies. The investigation team identified a total of 16 victims throughout the UK, who in total had lost over £700,000 at the hands of the crime group – with one victim losing over £450,000.

The victims were told by the defendants that “fraudulent activity” had been flagged on their accounts and that they should withdraw their money.

Some victims were even told to convert their savings and were persuaded into buying expensive watches and jewellery, including a Rolex worth over £26,000, and foreign currency, before handing them over to a courier.

Some victims even acted as couriers unknowingly, as they believed they were “helping the police”.

Zaman and Miah were said to be the “organisers” and “top of the tree” of the conspiracy, with Abdulkarim and Sharif acting as “middle-men” and sometime supervisors.

Victims were told to lie to bank staff and give them bogus reasons as to why they were withdrawing vast amounts of money as they were told staff were “complicit” in the fraudulent activity.

The five men, Fawaz Miah, 26, Fras Abdulkarim, 20, Abdul Olayinka, 19, Noor Sharif, 20, and Sahil Zaman, 22, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and money laundering offences.

In August 2021, three of the men, Miah, Abdulkarim and Olayinka, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation, while Zaman and Sharif faced a jury trial.

On January 28, the pair were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses at Durham Crown Court, and one Monday they were sentenced alongside the other three.

Miah, of Cromer St, Camden, London, received six years behind bars; Zaman, of Cromer Street, Camden, was jailed for nine years; Sharif, of Camden Park Road, London, was sentenced to two years and 11 months.

Olayinka, of Harrowgate Road, London, saw his 21 month sentence suspended for two years while Abdulkarim, of Great Russell Street, London, also received a suspended sentence of two years.

Detective Constable Gillian Coulson, the officer who ran the investigation, said: “This is a cruel crime in which criminals target the most vulnerable members of our community and steal their life savings.

“This is a great outcome for the victims and one which protects the public from further offending. We remain dedicated to pursuing anyone who seeks to defraud others and we encourage people to look out for vulnerable family members and friends and to challenge anyone on the phone asking for money or valuables.

“Please ring the police immediately if you notice anything suspicious. Police officers or your bank will never ask you to hand over money, or transfer funds. If you receive a call like this, do not interact, hang up and report it immediately.”

Police have urged anyone who thinks they might have been a victim of courier fraud to please contact them on 101 or to call Action Fraud immediately on 0300 123 2040. You can also report it online at the Action Fraud website.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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