A conman from South Tyneside has become the first person in the country to be jailed for making thousands of pounds through computer software fraud.
Baljindher Singh, 39, was arrested at his home in South Shields in June 2017. He was brought into custody to be questioned by specialist fraud investigators.
A court was told how investigators have been looking into the tens of thousands of reports of computer software fraud made each year. Singh was identified as being part of a scam that involved victims being contacted and told there is a problem with their computer.
Victims were then told by the fraudsters that they worked in the IT department at tech-giant Microsoft and that they could resolve the issue for a fee. Fraudsters would take the money but, instead of fixing any problem, they would install malicious software on the computer that would allow them to steal even more money.
Prosecutors revealed during the case that Singh had helped steal £400,000 from victims and is thought to have pocketed tens of thousands of pounds for himself.
Enquiries found that the fraudsters were based in the Delhi region of India but they were asking victims to transfer money to a UK based bank account.
Police identified Singh as the owner of the account and detectives from the North East Special Operations Unit later found he was transferring the cash back to Delhi, while taking a cut for himself.
He was charged with money laundering and became only the third person to be convicted in relation to computer software fraud when he entered a guilty plea at court in December.
Singh, of Marshall Wallace Road, South Shields, was jailed for 28 months at Newcastle Crown Court, making him the first person to ever be jailed in relation to these types of offences.
Following the case, Detective Constable Andrew Smith, of NERSOU’s Cyber Crime team, said he was "delighted" to secure a conviction as part of an investigation dubbed Operation Thistle.
The average age of victims of this type of fraud is 62 and they typically pay out £600 but tech firms such as Microsoft have stepped up efforts to safeguard customers in recent years.
Abrahim Bakhtiar, CELA Senior Attorney at Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit said:
Singh was jailed after admitting possession of criminal property with intent to money launder at Newcastle Crown Court.