Four people have been jailed after scamming victims out of about £200,000.
Arris Qumar, 26, Awais Zaman, 21, Mya Haskins, 19, and Adriana Andrade, 19, were sentenced for their involvement in a complex fraud conspiracy targeting vulnerable people across the North East and West Yorkshire.
Their victims included individuals in Newcastle, Darlington, South Tyneside and Durham, with one victim from Darlington losing £127,000 in the scam.
In September 2021, six individual victims were identified as having been contacted by fraudsters claiming to be police officers.
The group targeted victims with "courier fraud", contacting victims over the phone to convince them that their bank accounts had been scammed, urging them to proved "vital evidence" - such as cash, purchased goods and personal details - to help officers investigate the bogus crime.
These incidents were referred to police and specialist officers from the North-East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) who then launched an investigation.
Warrants were executed at addresses in London, Warwickshire and the West Midlands in October 2021 with a number of arrests made.
The four defendants were then charged with conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and appeared at Teesside Crown Court.
Andrade was convicted following a guilty plea in August 2021. In October of this year, Qumar, Zaman and Haskins were convicted by jury following a trial.
All four were sentenced on Friday 9 December:
Arris Qumar, of York Close, Coventry, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
Awais Zaman, of Brooklyn Road, Coventry, was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison.
Mya Haskins, of Izod Road, Rugby, Warwickshire, was sentenced to a year and ten months in prison.
Adriana Andrade, of Norman Road, Rugby, Warwickshire, was sentenced to a year and four months in prison.
Detective Constable Andy Thompson, who led the case, said: “Firstly, I want to thank the victims in this case for their bravery and for working with officers to ensure justice was served at court.
“This was a particularly callous crime in which the criminals specifically targeted elderly and vulnerable members of our community to fulfil their own personal greed. The investigation was complex in nature, however we ensured that the victims were safeguarded and that we identified those responsible who were brought to justice”
“Sadly, many people who find themselves caught up in a complex scam like courier fraud are often unaware they’ve been a victim until it is too late.
"I encourage families to speak to their elderly relatives and educate them around potential scams and fraud and ask them if anyone has called them out of the blue, or if they have recently withdrawn money or handed over any valuables. These conversations are important.”
NEROCU’s Detective Inspector Shaun Fordy said: “Along with our partners, we will continue to relentlessly pursue those criminals who seek to scam the elderly, the vulnerable and the unsuspecting, under Operation Sentinel. We will arrest them, and we will put them before the Courts.
“Help us to reinforce the message that police officers, or your bank will never cold call and 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.
“With your help we can close the net further on these deceitful and deplorable fraudsters and put them before the courts.”
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