Shelagh Fogarty is Leading Britain's Conversation.
30 October 2017, 14:16
A group of seven people who carried out a £2 million mobile phone fraud have been jailed.
A group of seven people who carried out a £2 million mobile phone fraud, which involved the dishonest use of the personal details of hundreds of UK students, have been jailed.
Detectives from the Met Police began an investigation in March 2014 after two students at the University of Sheffield contacted police to report their bank accounts were being used fraudulently.
The investigation uncovered a long-running and sophisticated fraud carried out in a systematic way against the companies who supply mobile phone services, including EE, Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile, Three and Virgin.
Seven people were identified as being part of a group who set up phone contracts in the names of people who were not genuine subscribers.
The individuals' whose details were used, were mainly students who were paid £50 for a phone contract to be taken out in their name.
The fraudsters told the students they were not doing anything dishonest, but needed peoples' names and details to obtain legitimate unclaimed upgrades, or take advantage of legal loopholes.
The contracts were set up on an individual subscriber basis, but also via companies set up in the students' names, as this would allow more handsets to be obtained on a single contract.
Once the mobile phone handsets had been sent out to the students' address, they were asked to post them on to a rented office in Fulham.
The fraudsters then used two methods of making money from the new handsets, mainly iPhone5s, and associated SIM cards.
In the majority of cases, the contract would be cancelled and they would send back cheap, counterfeit handsets and disguise the fraud by manipulating the weight entry on the proof of postage receipt.
The original handsets would then be unlocked and sold abroad where they could be used with a foreign SIM card.
The other form of profit used by the gang was to sell the SIM card to a text marketing company.
The individual identified as the manager of the fraud, which was run via three companies JBi Systems Ltd, JBi Capital Ltd and Netlink Services UK Ltd, was Jonathan Boorman.
Boorman was described as "Big Boss" within a directory spreadsheet seized by Met detectives and his second in command was Alex Karonias.
Also involved in the fraud were Tom Maynard, Charlie Shelton, Rob Morrison, Laura Kane and Reiss Rawson.
Shelton and Morrison were heavily involved in the cancelling of the contracts, while Kane and Rawson were involved in the administration of the payments.The fraud was conducted during a one-year period from August 2013 to August 2014.
Officers searched the JBi office in Fulham on 5 August 2014 and seized a large amount of paperwork and electronic data that allowed them to build up a picture of how the fraud worked.
As part of a thorough and lengthy investigation, detectives took statements from more than 300 students, who each gave similar stories of how they had been paid £50 per handset after handing over their personal details.
Many of the students had been recruited via social networks attached to university groups, including the rugby teams at Leeds and Sheffield.
Once their details had been obtained, the students were not informed of what happened to the mobile phone handset and SIM card registered in their name.
In many cases, the phone contract was not always cancelled, leaving the students left with large debts which subsequently affected their credit ratings.
The combined loss for the mobile phone networks has been totalled as £2,149,344.
The seven defendants were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, 27 October as follows:
- Jonathan Boorman, 32, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to six years and four months' imprisonment and banned for ten years from being the director of any company.
- Laura Kane, 28, who was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to five years and six months' imprisonment and banned for ten years from being the director of any company.
- Alex Karonias, 32, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and banned for ten years from being the director of any company.
- Charlie Shelton, 31, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud was sentenced to three years and three months' imprisonment and banned for six years from being the director of any company.
- Robert Morrison, 31, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment and banned for five years from being the director of any company.
- Thomas Maynard, 26, who pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and must complete 160 hours unpaid work. He has been banned for six years from being the director of any company.
- Reiss Rawson, 31, who was found guilty at trial of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and must complete 160 hours unpaid work.
Detective Inspector Louise Shea, of the Met's Cyber Crime Unit, said: "This was a meticulously planned fraud that was carried out on an industrial scale. The defendants used the personal details of students from across the country to obtain mobile phone contracts which they used to make a profit.
"The motive for this crime was pure greed and the fraudsters showed a complete disregard for the trust placed in them by the students who handed over their details, many of who have been left with large debts. In some cases, the students gave their parents' home address and this has subsequently affected their ability to apply for credit.
"This case should act as a warning for any student who is offered a cash incentive to hand over their personal details. It may be tempting to earn some short-term cash in this way, but in the long-term you could be left with a large debt and a poor credit rating, which will affect your ability to get a mortgage or bank loan in the future."