Two postmen who took part in a £1.3 million money laundering scam have been jailed. They were caught after overseas students at Exeter University fell victim to a fraud.
Shaker Javaid, 32, and Alex Stocks, 30, set up bank accounts which were used as a conduit for huge sums conned out of more than 200 victims of internet scams from all around the world.
A judge at Exeter Crown Court jailed father-of-one Javaid for seven years while Stocks received a 30-month prison sentence.
The pair were caught after overseas students at Exeter University fell victim to a fraud in which they were swindled out of thousands of pounds they paid as deposits for non-existent luxury flats.
Some of the payments were traced back to accounts run by the men from their homes in Lancashire, and inquiries then found these had been used in many other swindles.
The most serious fraud was against a German woman who was blackmailed into transferring her life savings of £25,000 after hackers convinced her they would kill her family if she refused.
Javaid and Stocks claimed they were victims of the same international conspiracy and thought they were handling genuine payments for online car accessory sales.
Accounts in the name of Flashclaims and Global Supplies were controlled by the two men and used for the transfer of sums totalling £1.3 million from around the world.
The fraudsters tried to hide their identities by using money transfer services including Moneygram and Western Union.
In March, a jury found they had both been involved in the money laundering scam but cleared Stocks of the more serious charge of conspiracy.
Javaid, of Albert Terrace, Deepdale, Preston, and Stocks, of Windsor Avenue, Longridge, Lancashire, denied conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.
Javaid was found guilty and Stocks cleared of conspiracy but convicted of money laundering. Javaid was also found guilty of five related offences of laundering or fraud.
Kathryn Johnson, for Javaid, said his crimes did not involve laundering the proceeds of the drugs trade and that he was "rather close to the bottom (of it) than the top".
"I have to accept that it is serious fraud and serious confidence fraud," she said.
Tom Mitchell, for Stocks, said his client was paid no more than #1,000 for his involvement in money laundering.
"His personal benefit ran into hundreds of pounds, rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds," he said.
"It is, with respect, pence compared to what others have had out of it. There is no evidence that Mr Stocks had led a lavish lifestyle out of it.
"It is not because it has been spent or given to someone else - the personal benefit has been virtually nil."
Jailing the pair, Judge Erik Salomonsen said: "I accept that you were not alone - clearly there were others - and I sentence you on the basis of a wider conspiracy.
"Your defence, Shaker Javaid, was that you believed it was legitimate. The jury rejected your excuse.
"You have not assisted yourself by giving any indication to the part others played. I accept that you were a man that played a role and you were at the heart of the conspiracy.
"Without you there would have been no bank accounts and no ability to launder the cash. Indeed your operation was so successful that a second account was needed, which is where you, Alex Stocks, came in.
"The prosecution accept that you played a lesser role - it was your co-defendant that took the lead.
"It is clear to me from the way you gave your evidence that you were a follower, not the leader. The jury, in my judgement, quite rightly rejected your account."
Both defendants will be subjects of proceeds of crime hearings.