Boiler room gang behind bars after international investigation
Originally from Nigeria, Abrue met and married the 18-year-old Robson in Newcastle and from here he started to form his criminal network.
Detectives discovered how he began his criminal career inventing false companies for other boiler rooms before deciding the big money was to be made by selling the shares for himself.
To legitimise the operation, UK phone numbers and Company details were acquired and bank accounts created using Abrue’s neighbours’ addresses.
His gang set-up Spanish boiler rooms from where fraudulent brokers used aggressive sales tactics to sell shares in what they claimed were emerging mineral and bio fuel companies about to float on the stock market.
Abrue was recruiting former colleagues from the telesales industry to work for him.
The men were trained in Malaga and then moved to offices in Majorca, where they operated pressurising people into buying shares in non-existent companies such as Bio Fuel Solutions Corporation and New Power Technology.
Professional websites and brochures were also produced in Sweden to convince people, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, to part with their savings.
The reality was victims were buying into fictitious companies, with their money being laundered through Swedish and Italian bank accounts to fund a champagne lifestyle for Abrue and his associates.
Parties for up to 300 people were thrown in top Barcelona hotels and a Ferrari, Bentley and Maserati were bought and garaged in Spain.
Victims were sent ‘bogus’ share certificates, produced in a Sunderland back-street office run by Henderson, to provide evidence of their investments and to encourage them to make further payouts.
Abrue was identified as the head of the organised crime gang, using different aliases to move between Spain, Sweden and the UK.
This boiler room fraud first appeared on the City of London Police’s radar in August 2009, when its National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) was contacted by a stream of people claiming to have lost money after being cold-called.The NFIB used this intelligence to build a picture of how the boiler room was operating; linking the individual losses to a much larger criminal network operating out of Spain.
City of London Police, which is the National Lead Force for fraud, launched an investigation.
In December 2009 the City of London Police led a national operation that saw 11 people arrested in Northumbria and three others in Manchester, Derbyshire and London. On the same day, Abrue was detained in Sweden and several months later extradited back to the UK to be charged.
Paul Slack’s case first came to police attention in March 2009 when a man from Ilkeston contacted Derbyshire police as he suspected he had been the victim of a ‘boiler room’ fraud by people claiming to be from a company called Milton Hayward based in Japan. He had lost thousands of pounds to the fraudsters.
The gangs set up companies, bank accounts and websites and send out press releases to deceive people into believing that they are purchasing legitimate shares and commodities from genuine companies.
Victims spanned 43 countries
Detectives found the Milton Hayward case particularly difficult to investigate because although the company was allegedly based in Japan, the companies involved had been registered in the West Indies and victims money had been transferred to accounts in Cyprus and Hong Kong.
As the investigation progressed and more victims were traced, officers identified another crime group in Spain, Sweden and the North East of England. The evidence and intelligence that had been gathered by Derbyshire officers was passed to the City of London Police, who agreed to take over the investigation with assistance from Derbyshire Constabulary.
National and international enquiries under Operation Handa continued. Over the next two years, 210 victims in 43 countries including Europe, North America, Australasia and the Far East, were traced. By liaising with authorities in China and Cyprus, police identified several gang members and a large number of other suspect companies being linked to the group.
These companies included First Call Commodities, Milton Hayward, Total Asset Management, Keshington Group LTD, Regal and Archer, East West Options, Jam Capital, Mays Group, Bradley Hill Holdings, World Asian Trading Group, Chatex Ltd, Goldman Asset Management, Quantum Holdings and Borsa Financial.
Inquiries revealed that Slack, a British man living in Thailand, was linked to the companies and bank accounts. He was arrested by Derbyshire officers at Heathrow Airport in December 2010, having returned to the UK from a holiday in Australia.
27 May 2011
Raids took place across the city of Palma de Mallorca
Fifteen Britons suspected of running one of Europe’s biggest “boiler room” scams have been arrested in Spain.
Armed police carried out a raid in Mallorca as part of an investigation into a gang believed to have been cold-calling thousands of UK residents.
The arrested men, from Nottinghamshire, Essex, Luton and London, appeared briefly in a Spanish court yesterday but are yet to face trial.
Boiler room fraudsters use pressure sales tactics to sell worthless shares.
City of London Police, who worked with the Spanish authorities, said younger members of the alleged scam are thought to have been lured into the operation by crime bosses who targeted them in English-speaking bars.
‘Fake companies’Dyno Medical, Inca Pacific Gold and Mining and Viking Gold Resources have been named as fake companies linked to the gang.
The 15 include Liam Rymell, 23; Dominic Jones, 24; Shafiq Dad, 41; Omar Rana, 27; and Rashid Shafayat, 30, all from Nottingham.
Also arrested were John Bartlett, 22; Tyrone Robinson, 23, and Lee Fisher, 24 – all from Mansfield – and Essex residents Danny Dilliway, 25, Chris Savva, 30, Mohamed Ghazalli, 26, and Neil Simpson, 27.
Farhan Khan, 24, from Hayes, west London; Anthony Baugh, 25, from Luton; and Fahim Khan, 36, from south London but residing in Spain, are the other British suspects.
Two German nationals also appeared in court.
Boiler room scams are estimated to cost the UK about £200m a year.
June 22nd 2011
A City of London Police investigation into one of the UK’s biggest boiler room frauds has ended with the conviction of nine people.The case can now be reported, after the final two suspects, Abrue’s wife and mother-in-law, were convicted in Newcastle Crown Court today. City of London Police investigated the crime in its role as national lead force for fraud.
Sarah Robson, 28, and Jocelyn Cowper, 57, from Tyne-and-Wear, were found guilty of assisting the mastermind behind the multi-million pound con. They will be sentenced on 12 July 2011.
George Abrue, 30, the mastermind behind the fraud, was jailed for five-years having admitted to orchestrating a £10 million investment con that targeted UK citizens.
Six other members of Abrue’s gang were also jailed at Harrow Crown Court in May, with his main partners, Scott Henderson, 31, and Anton Deach, 25, receiving five-year and four-year prison sentences respectively.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Clark, from the City of London Police, said:
“George Abrue was a bright and articulate man, but he was also an unscrupulous and callous coward. He showed no sentiment in his crime, and clearly thought nothing of the impact his fraud had on its victims.
“Some of those victims have been suicidal, and the psychological effect on them and their families has been tragic; all so Abrue and his friends could live the lifestyle of a Premier League footballer spending astronomical sums of money.
“Our focus now is to recover every asset we can in an effort to claw back some of the victims’ money, work which will continue for the next two years.
Operation Soundwave saw the City of London Police working with Spanish law enforcement and, for the first time on a major investigation, the NFIB.
DCI Clark added:
“This case shows how the NFIB can prove to be a huge breakthrough for law enforcement. The linking together of this case by the Bureau turned a three-year investigation into six-months work.
“Transfer that to the number of possible victims who could have lost money during a longer investigation, and the potential value of the NFIB is clear.”
15th July 2011
A conman who defrauding investors in 43 countries out of more than £4.5m has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Paul Slack was jailed at Derby Crown Court today (Friday, July 15) after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. His conviction follows a two-year international investigation by officers from Derbyshire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit.
At Derby Crown Court, Slack admitted conspiring with others to obtain funds from various investors by falsely representing legitimate and fraudulent companies between June 2007 and December 2010.
Slack (32), formerly of Kingwinsford in the West Midlands, also admitted conspiring to conceal criminal property.
Click on links beneath photo for full size. (Photos open in new window)
‘Boiler Room’ frauds are generally committed by organised criminal gangs which con people into buying shares in legitimate companies or buying commodities such as gold. The victims are often elderly, vulnerable and inexperienced in investments.
They are typically cold called by the gang and subjected to high pressure sales tactics. Victims usually lose their savings, pensions, and property to the criminals.
Detectives hunt Slack’s gang
Detective Sergeant Darron Hunt of Derbyshire police’s Economic Crime Unit said: “Each year, there will be many victims in Derbyshire who lose hundreds of thousands of pounds to these criminal gangs. Some never report their losses to the police as they feel embarrassed at being duped by these criminals but they shouldn’t feel ashamed.
“These are professional criminals at the top of their game, operating outside UK jurisdiction, thinking that they will never be caught. This is a falsely held belief. With the assistance of the public, our Economic Crime Unit is not only prepared to take on these gangs but are also proven to be successful in prosecuting them from wherever they choose to operate.”
Detective Constable Winnard, the officer in the case, said: “These sort of crimes are difficult to investigate due to their complexity and cross-border nature. The gangs hope that by moving through different countries the police will not investigate their activities but in this case, they were wrong.”
DC Winnard said that this type of crime not only has a devastating effect on victims, who often lose everything they own, it has an impact on the economy as well. He added: “In this case, around £4.5 million that could have been invested in legitimate companies went straight into the pockets of criminals instead of into businesses that needed investment.
“We are aware that Slack had personal control of almost £1 million of victims money. This conviction sends a message to those involved in this type of crime that wherever you are in the world, you are not beyond the reach of the UK authorities.
“I would personally like to thank both the Cypriot and Hong Kong Authorities for their assistance in bringing Paul Slack to justice.”
“However, our investigation is not over. We are still actively seeking Slack’s accomplices in this significant fraud case.”
Fraudsters jailed in similar operation
The joint operation between Derbyshire Constabulary and the City of London led to several successful convictions earlier this summer at Harrow Crown Court. This crime group is believed to have obtained around £3.9 million from victims in the UK. Sentences for this crime group included:
- George Abrue (30) – five years imprisonment
- Scott Henderson (31) – Four years imprisonment
- Anton Deach (25) – five years imprisonment
- Babatunde Aluko (28) – three years and nine months imprisonment
- Sam Hamed (24) – three years and nine months imprisonment
- Dean Hamilton (25) – three years imprisonment
- Mark Brannan (27) – 18 months imprisonment on each count (1 x conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
- Sarah Robson – (25) 21 months ( 1x conspiracy to defraud and 1x conspiracy to money launder)
- Jocelyn Cowper (53) – one year (1x conspiracy to defraud and 1x conspiracy to money launder)
The full list of sentences for the case was as follows:
George Abrue – 5 years imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
Anton Deach – 5 years imprisonment on 1 count of Conspiracy to defraud
Scott Henderson – 4 years imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
Babatunde Aluko – 3 years and 9 months imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
Sam Hamed – 3 years and 9 months imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
Dean Hamilton – 3 years imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 money laundering) to run concurrently
Mark Brannan – 18 months imprisonment on each count (1 x Conspiracy to defraud, 1 x money laundering) to run concurrently
Sarah Robson – found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud and one count of conspiracy to money launder; due to be sentenced 12 July
Jocelyn Cowper – found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud and one count of conspiracy to money launder; due to be sentenced 12 July