Five fraudsters have been jailed after using an elaborate scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from vulnerable people across the North East.
Between late 2018 and early 2019, the men had taken over £700,000 in total - with one victim losing over £450,000 - by posing as police officers as part of a scam.
Known as Courier Fraud, victims were cold-called by criminals claiming to be police officers investigating fraudulent activity on their bank account.
The victims were then asked to visit their bank to withdraw large amounts of cash, which the fraudsters said would be collected by the ‘officers’ for fingerprinting, and some victims were instructed to purchase high-value jewellery for the fake investigation.
Officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) with the support of other forces and agencies, uncovered the scam which led to five men being arrested and charged.
Five key suspects were identified from London. They acted as the callers, organisers and couriers. 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.
On Monday (1 February) the five men were sentenced to a total of over 21 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.
“We encourage people to look out for vulnerable family members and friends and to challenge anyone on the phone asking for money or valuables.
The police are reminding the public that officers or the bank will never ask you to hand over your money or transfer funds. If you receive a call like this - hang up and report it immediately.
They have also 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.