Thursday, October 13, 2011

Five men jailed for £4.5m worldwide premium phone number scam

The gang admitted conning the company in an organised premium phone line scam using fraudulently obtained mobile sim cards.

Mohammad Butt, 42, of Forest Gate, east London, Abrar Arshad, 35, of Rochford, Essex, and Abiola Salami, 30, of Edgbaston, Birmingham, were handed three years behind bars for conspiracy to defraud.

Guilty: (left to right) Abiola Salami, 30, Nikhil Jamsandekar, 33, Mohammed Butt, 42, and Abrar Arshad who have been jailed for their part in a £4.5 million global premium phone line fraud
Guilty: (left to right) Abiola Salami, 30,
 Nikhil Jamsandekar, 33, Mohammed Butt, 42, and Abrar Arshad

Two other men who admitted conspiracy to defraud the company were also sentenced.

Nikhil Jamsandekar, 33, also from Forest Gate, was jailed for 27 months, and Ade James, 25, of Queensbury, Birmingham, was sentenced to 18 months.

02 lost nearly £4.5 million as a result of the scam, known as international revenue share fraud.

    The court heard how the gang corrupted at least nine DHL delivery drivers to intercept the iPhones before they were delivered to bogus addresses used to obtain contracts.

    Jailing the gang Judge Jeffrey Pegden QC told Southwark Crown Court: 'This is no victimless crime as inevitable such huge losses are passed on in part to honest, bill-paying customers.

    'In this case I accept there must have been a significant number of conspirators, especially abroad.

    'I accept that none of you were at the pinnacle of the conspiracy or the creator of it but you all played significant parts which enable the conspiracy to continue and be very, very successful.

    'You all, by your actions, contributed to the riches that were obtained.'

    The judge said Arshad, Jamsandekar and Butt were involved in the testing and exporting of the SIM cards.

    James and Salami were said to have be involved in the 'initial fraudulent obtaining' of the SIMs via the corrupt DHL drivers and then passing them on to Arshad, Jamsandekar and Butt.

    Judge Pegden described Arshad and Butt as 'important middle-men' who were well aware of where the SIM cards had come from.

    He said Jamsandekar played a 'lesser role' but he was an 'able and willing assistant playing an important part'.

    'You were involved in the dishonest acquisition of SIM cards, the diversion of corrupt DHL delivery drivers and the passing of cards to the testers.'

    Addressing Salami the judge said: 'You were above the level of a middle man.

    He said James was a 'willing assistant' to Salami who was rewarded with 'food, clothes and entertainment'.

    Earlier prosecutor David Hughes said: 'This is a fraud whereby conspirators acquire SIM cards on post-pay contracts and then they are subsequently used to make multiple calls to premium rate phone lines outside the UK.

    'They are fraudulently acquired by using the personal data and details of totally innocent persons.

    'Once these phones and the all-important SIM cards have been diverted by the conspirators it is necessary to test the SIM card.

    'This is done using a test handset. If it works then it is exported [overseas] and from there the international calls [to premium rate numbers] are made.'

    He said gang members based outside the UK either made repeat calls from a particular SIM or used a 'gateway' machine carrying several SIMs to make multiple automated calls.

    'The loss occasioned to O2 comes as they are providing the service, for which they are not being paid, but also because these are internationally routed calls and it is the UK service provider who then has to pay all the people who routed these calls, including the people who run the premium rate lines,' he said.

    After Butt's arrest in August 2010 he was found to have racked up a bill of £55,540 using 41 fraudulently obtained SIM cards, some of which had been used in Spain.

    He was paid £3,000 by Arshad.

    When police raided Arshad's address in Southend, Essex, they discovered a test hand set and five SIM cards which had been used to net £9,045.

    He had used a SIM registered to him in three other devices later found out to have raked in £61,854 to the fraud from some 36 SIM cards.

    The SIM registered to him was heard to have been used in Spain on at least three occasions between January and August.

    He had also used his uncle's phone to pocket another £46,943.

    Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart, of the City of London Police, said: 'This was a highly sophisticated and co-ordinated attack against the global telecoms industry by an alliance of a number of different organised crime groups that had learned to exploit technology.

    'They co-operated in an illicit scheme to subvert previously legitimate premium rate services to defraud millions of pounds in a relatively short period of time before their arrest.

    'This was a hugely complicated and unique investigation and I would like to pay particular credit to O2 for their assistance, resources and analytical expertise that undoubtedly helped the City of London Police to bring these criminals to justice.'

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